Sunday, September 11, 2016

Banking With Your Aadhaar Number Mark

Biometric ATMs ride in on Aadhaar

By Jonathan Ananda

CHENNAI: A few years ago, biometric ATMs were something that excited imaginations. Money with just a fingerprint? An iris scan? No hassles of PINs and passwords? The idea was an instant hit. But the years following saw the fervour die down a bit. Banks weren’t as quick in rolling out biometrically enabled teller machines.

That has changed in the last few months, with bank after bank introducing pilots, in the case of DCB Bank an official launch, of biometrically enabled cash machines in select areas. The vital change in banks’ willingness to finally rollout something that they have been infrastructurally capable of for years has been spurred by one single factor — Aadhaar. The biometric footprint of lakhs of Indians provided by UIDAI has finally given banks the wherewithal to enable biometrics in their last mile cash delivery platforms.

“Quite frankly, it was never a priority for us (public sector banks) because of the other challenges we were struggling with,” pointed out a senior bank official in a nationalised bank. “Collecting biometric information from customers would have involved a lot of human resources, those we couldn’t spare. Aadhaar has solved that particular problem,” he added.

It is not just distracted PSBs that were waiting for a readily available database. Private banks like Axis Bank, which are rolling out pilots in several areas, were doing the same thing.

“Earlier, we had to create our own biometric footprint. Now that everyone has one available over a simple API call, it makes sense for us to bring in biometrics,” said Amit Sethi, Chief Information Officer, Axis Bank.

In fact, Sethi says that all new ATMs that Axis will install in the next year might well come biometrically enabled.

“We are already running a pilot and we will launch it officially very soon,” he admitted.

DCB Bank’s Managing Director & CEO, Murali M. Natrajan agrees that Aadhaar has been a game changer, The bank has launched what it claims is the India’s first Aadhaar based ATM. Which accepts customer’s Aadhaar number and fingerprint (biometric) impression in addition to the usual debit card.

“The Aadhaar linked ATM transaction has enabled customers use their Aadhaar number and fingerprint details instead of the Debit or ATM Card PIN. The user either can key-in the 12-digit Aadhaar number or use the Debit or ATM Card (ATM) to start a transaction. At the stage of confirming the identity the customer simply puts any finger on the scanner rather than the PIN,” Natrajan pointed out.

But banks like Axis and HDFC have already rolled out a version of biometrics in their micro ATM initiatives. HDFC announced the measure early last year. Sethi says Axis has a large number of micro ATMs in rural geographies that do everything, including disburse instant loans through biometric verification.

But biometrics, while ‘cool’ was a bit of an overkill when it was just cash that was being disbursed through ATMs. “But ATMs do a lot more now. They do KYC work, they disburse loans, there are so many use cases. It makes a lot of sense integrating biometrics with them now,” pointed out Sethi.

Another factor pushing banks is that fact that technological differentiation is steadily becoming a vital aspect of how customers move to and from banks.

“Twenty new banks are coming in now. And a lot of these are going to be using technology to differentiate — in user experience, cost of operations etc,” said Navroze Dastur, Managing Director, NCR Corporation India.

NCR is one of the largest ATM manufacturers in the world and has a 48 per cent market share o the ATM market in India.

The rollout of biometrics is not just confined to ATMs. ICICI Bank has introduced an over the phone voice verification feature for customers and Standard Chartered meanwhile announced the rollout of a host of biometric capabilities for Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The ‘Touch in’ feature is already live in India.

The age of biometrics is here. And ATMs are riding the crest of the wave. What has made this possible, however, is Aadhaar.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Amen’ initiative in Jerusalem to connect people of all faiths amid troubling times

Amen’ initiative in Jerusalem to connect people of all faiths amid troubling times

#Amen seeks to bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims who share a belief in one God and a boundless love for Jerusalem to dialogue, study, sing and pray together

#JERUSALEM Christians, Jews and Muslims are uniting in an unprecedented and potentially historic #interfaith prayer and spiritual gathering in Jerusalem called “Amen – A House of Prayer For All Believers.”Amen will be open through September 11.

Intended to create a single home for the world’s three major religions, “Amen” is playing a featured part in the 2016 Mekudeshet Festival from Sept. 4-23 that is harnessing the city’s ancient powers to inspire artists, musicians and cultural figures from around the world to redefine their art and traditions and connect amid troubling times. Amen seeks to bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims who share a belief in one God and a boundless love for Jerusalem to dialogue, study, sing and pray together in one temporary house of worship. “We will study, argue – yes, this is also allowed – and pray – together and alone. We will see if it is possible, despite all the corporeal difficulties and earthly obstacles, to create a new reality,” said Mekudeshet Artistic Director Itay Mautner. Amen culminates a months-long series of discussions among representatives of the three religions, who cooperated to design the shared house of prayer. The venue, the Alpert Youth Music Center of Jerusalem in the Hinnom Valley, is open from morning to night, with meetings and preparations for prayer taking place at 10 a.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m. daily throughout the week in Arabic, Hebrew and Coptic.

World Bank wants India’s ID body to share its experiences

World Bank wants India’s ID body to share its experiences

The World Bank has asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to inform other countries on the benefits of the country’s biometrics-backed identity programme.

Nigeria has been the first country to send a delegation to learn about the process under the World Bank’s plan, and a Tanzanian one is expected this month, UIDAI chief executive Ajay Bhushan Pandey told the Economic Times.

"This is happening under the World Bank's Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative. We will offer all help to visiting countries by way of knowledge exchange," Pandey said.

The World Bank confirmed this to the newspaper.

"ID4D has sought the experience and lessons from UIDAI implementation to share learnings with interested countries".

A senior government official, on the condition of anonymity, told ET that the international interest in Aadhaar stems from the fact that India now has the biggest biometric identity database and has "leapfrogged" over the efforts of many other countries in Africa and Asia who do have a database of citizens, but in the form of paper-based register records.

"Countries are eager to know how a 104 crore-strong biometric database was built and will be used for determining identity,"he said.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Iraq’s ancient city of Babylon eyes World Heritage list

Will the UN rejuvenate the “Capital of the Ancient World”?  That is the dream of many in Iraq. Getting recognition from the UN as a World Heritage Site would mean a lot of money and assistance from UNESCO.

On July 17, UNESCO added al-Ahwar marshes in southeastern Iraq to the World Heritage list. Now, Iraq is seeking to add the 4,000-year-old city of Babylon to the list, which includes world heritage properties of special cultural and natural significance.

Hussein Fleih, Babylon’s director of antiquities and member of Babil’s provincial council, told Al-Monitor, “Babylon will be competing to earn that recognition in the voting process supervised by UNESCO for 2017.” He said that naming Babylon a World Heritage site will help to preserve this historical city by drawing not only local but international financial and technical support.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

On The Agenda - Canada to Host North American Leaders’ Summit in June

Meeting comes as trade protectionism remains dominant issue in the U.S. election campaign

The meeting, the first for the leaders of the U.S., Mexico and Canada since early 2014, comes when trade protectionism remains a dominant issue in the U.S. election campaign.

Focus On - High-Level Conversation on Religions for Peace

The President of the General Assembly  convened a High-Level Conversation on “Religions for Peace”, was held on Friday, 6 May, 2016, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

"Today, the values of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect for faiths and cultures seem more and more to be under pressure in the midst of political upheaval, conflicts and civil strife. Across the world, societies are facing challenges from those who purposefully misconstrue religion to try to lend legitimacy to their crimes and acts of terrorism. In this regard, nations and States should collaborate to address root causes, overcome misunderstandings between societies, cultures and civilizations, within the framework of the UN Charter and relevant international law as well as relevant General Assembly decisions, applicable UN Security Council resolutions and collective efforts such as the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and other pertinent sources."
A high-level conversation on “Religions for Peace” is an occasion for the membership of the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders, including representatives of different faith traditions, to recall the significance of maintaining respectful tolerance across diverse cultures and religions and to address violent extremism and terrorism, including giving further consideration to the recently unveiled Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, and to reiterate the principles of relevant Security Council resolutions on terrorism.

Religions for Peace is the largest international coalition of representatives from the world’s religions dedicated to promoting peace founded in 1970.
International Secretariat headquarters is in New York City, with Regional Conferences in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Americas with more than 90 affiliates at the national level, and a number of local units. Religions for Peace enjoys consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with UNESCO and with UNICEFDr. William F Vendley is its Secretary General.
This non-governmental organization (NGO) serves on all continents representing 90 countries; it networks with World Council of senior religious leaders while respecting religious differences, common humanity and the influence of peace within every religion. This organization has created inter-religious partnerships to confront most dire issues such as stopping war, ending poverty and protecting the earth. Religions for Peace was founded in 1970 and supported by various foundations, governments, intergovernmental organizations, religious communities, religiously affiliated development agencies and individuals.

Respect for different faiths ‘bedrock’ and ‘prerequisite’ of world peace, UN General Assembly told

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    Global Agenda - Climate Action Summit 2016

    The Climate Action 2016 multi-stakeholder summit will take place two weeks after the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement, and eight months after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by all the governments of the world.  In this context, the summit will serve to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to climate implementation. In particular, it will deepen and expand the action coalitions of government, business, finance, philanthropy, civil society and academic leaders launched at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York, and since then developed through the Lima to Paris Action Agenda.