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Govt plans to put degrees online, ease verification

Govt plans to put degrees online, ease verification
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First Published: Wed, Mar 24 2010. 11 47 PM IST
Updated: Wed, Mar 24 2010. 11 47 PM IST
Mumbai / New Delhi: The government has appointed a task force to create a national database of academic qualifications to ensure confidentiality, authenticity, online verification and easy retrieval of degrees.
The team, which will submit its report on the e-certificate project by the end of this month, will appoint one of the two depositories—National Securities Depository Ltd and Central Depository Services (India) Ltd—to create and manage this database, the first time such a storehouse is being planned on a nationwide scale.
In the private sector, software and insurance industry groups currently manage their own database to prevent fraud.
According to the website of the ministry of human resource development (HRD), there are a total of 490 government-recognized universities in the country with around 2.54 million students getting a graduate or postgraduate degree every year. Apart from this, 9.5 million students clear their secondary school examinations.
According to First Advantage Pvt. Ltd, a background screening firm, at least 15% of resumes they checked last year had false information, creating the need for such a database.
The database will not just stock documents virtually, but also create a system for storing hard copies, said Sanjay Dhande, chairman of the government-appointed task force and director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
The group was appointed by the HRD ministry, which oversees education, in January this year. Verification of degrees will be cheaper and quicker if the project is implemented.
“We have prepared the road map of implementation, of which the first and foremost is that a law needs to be enacted to give legal standing to the database,” Dhande told Mint over phone from Kanpur. “Technology is the least important part according to me, given the expertise in the field available.”
The task force, also entrusted with identifying a registered depository that would create the database, has formed two sub-committees to look into the matter.
Dhande said only registered depositories are being considered for the job.
Another official of the task force, requesting anonymity since he is not authorized to speak to the media, said universities and various education boards will also be asked to upload documents online as the database is implemented.
He also said that legislation for the database is expected to be in place by September-October.
“The creation of the database should take another two years,” the member said.
Academic certificates from school to graduate and postgraduate levels, including professional degrees, will be mandatorily registered with the depository through the respective boards, universities and other institutions once the legislation is passed, with information retrievable on payment of a fee.
According to an official with one of the two shortlisted depositories, both institutions have already made presentations to the HRD ministry.
The official didn’t want his depository to be identified since he feared it would hamper the chances of selection.
“The e-certificate programme would work very much like demat (dematerialization of shares), except that the physical copy of the certificate will be in the hands of the candidate,” he said.
The government is not going to invest any money directly into the programme, it would just create enabling legislation, he added.
The depository will charge universities and schools for uploading degrees apart from getting paid by prospective employers who want to use the service for verification.
The person wouldn’t say how much the depositories would charge nor how much the depositories would have to invest in infrastructure.
Nasscom, the country’s information technology (IT) industry group, launched the National Skills Registry (NSR), a centralized database of employees for independent background checks, in January 2006.
Till date, 83 companies have joined NSR, comprising more than 70% of the workforce in IT and allied services.
The NSR website has recorded details of at least 593,000 individuals and has fingerprints and photos of more than 367,000.
More recently, in December, life and general insurance companies banded together to mandate that a centralized employee work and education database be set up by CRP Ltd, a risk mitigation consulting and solutions provider.
ravi.k@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Mar 24 2010. 11 47 PM IST