New Delhi: Kashyap Patel, a Surat-based engineer at Hazira LNG Pvt. Ltd, was travelling from Mumbai to Surat by train early this month, when he was asked to produce an identity card for ticket verification. He realized he was not carrying a physical ID proof but that did not faze him. He simply flashed his smartphone, displaying one of the identity documents issued to him from his DigiLocker account.
Launched in July 2015 and available on Android, iOS and web, DigiLocker is changing the way people are carrying important documents and certificates issued to them by government agencies. Patel, for instance, is just one of the over 17 million registered users in India for the DigiLocker service, according to the government’s website.
Citizens can now access their driving licences and vehicle registration certificates (RCs), if they have been issued the same, on DigiLocker. Even the Railways has begun accepting soft copies of Aadhaar and driving licence from your DigiLocker. The cloud-based platform has also tied up with CBSE to provide digital versions of marksheets of students. Subscribers can also integrate their permanent account number (PAN) with DigiLocker. Banks like Kotak Bank and ICICI Bank, too, have integrated their retail internet banking platforms with the platform.
However, like most Digital India apps, DigiLocker is a work in progress. While it has made it easier for users to carry their educational certificates, birth certificates, insurance documents, driving licences and produce them on demand, the app’s user experience has been wanting in several areas.
Prasanto K. Roy, a technology policy consultant, who has the app installed with his Aadhaar, driving license and a couple of other government documents, feels many government apps are really basic and utilitarian, with little focus on user experience (UX), and inadequate testing and feedback.
“The DigiLocker app’s UX needs more work. For instance, the repeated re-entry of the PIN when you switch from one view or document to the other is pointless—good UX would simply require a timeout for PIN re-entry, or allow me to change the setting," he cited as an example.
Debabarta Nayak, project director and chief technical architect of DigiLocker, countered that the “the PIN was added for security" but simultaneously acknowledged that the feature “is annoying and we know we have to change it at some point to improve the user experience without compromising the security aspect."
Then there are cases of the DigiLocker being ignored by authorities.
Roy pointed out that it isn’t accepted in many places. For instance, traffic police in Delhi ignore it and ask to see the physical driving licence. Airport security, too, insists on seeing the physical Aadhaar card. This is despite the fact that an order issued by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security acknowledges PAN card, Aadhaar and driving licence issued by authorities in DigiLocker as valid documents of identity.
The ministry of road transport has also clarified that driving licences and registration certificate via Digilocker have to be accepted as valid by traffic officials.
“The issue is that all law enforcement personnel may not be aware of it. We are having meetings and workshops with various departments and officials to generate more awareness about DigiLocker," said Amit Sawant, product manager technology, DigiLocker, in an official Facebook live video on 12 December.
Besides allowing users to get digital copies of documents issued by various agencies, DigiLocker provides the option to keep these safe on the cloud (1TB storage per user) in PDF, Jpeg and PNG formats.
However, to upload a document successfully on DigiLocker, users are required to provide storage access permission to the app first, advises Nayak.
The DigiLocker team is exploring new ways to improve user experience, according to Nayak.
Upcoming features, he adds, will include a new feedback system that will let users report issues with screenshots, and a DigiLocker ID that will allow users to get documents issued directly to their account.