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Face biometrics and voice interface coming to Indian government app

New changes planned amid a sharp rise in government app usage
Face biometrics and voice interface coming to Indian government app

India’s Unified Mobile Application for New Age Governance (UMANG) will soon adopt facial recognition for verification using built-in smartphone features, reports MINT. The changes come as more than two hundred thousand people have submitted life certificates via the UMANG app in November alone, a 200 percent increase since 2019.

Retirees who wish to generate proof-of-life certificates will soon be required to verify their identities with biometrics, but the government app requires the user to have one of only ten higher-end smartphone models it is compatible with. In addition to the face biometrics requirement, the UMANG app will also introduce an AI-based voice interface to provide accessibility and broaden the user base.

The move towards built-in smartphone technology will make third-party biometric verification devices obsolete as users’ phones become a one-stop solution for government benefit services. Previously, external biometric devices needed to be connected to the smartphones via USB to read fingerprints for verification. However, the cost factor and limited availability of such devices have prompted the Indian government to eliminate external devices and provide verification using built-in smartphone technology.

While the proposed changes promise an accessible and affordable option that addresses India’s rising demand for customer-centric contact-less government services, concerns exist regarding the widespread adoption of facial recognition.

“Right now the regulations allow only external biometric devices but we are working on a solution where face ID can be used for generating a digital life certificate,” said Abhishek Singh, CEO of the National eGovernance Division (NeGD) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information technology (MeitY).

The UMANG app, developed in 2017 by MeitY and NeGD provides access to 2000 e-governance services provided by India’s state and central government. The app works in conjunction with India’s Aadhaar. Addressing the sharp rise in public digitization, the government is also working to make the app available in all of its 22 official languages. According to Singh, so far the app supports 13 of these languages.

Hyderabad has launched a doorstep fingerprint biometric authentication service for pensioners to provide their Jeevan Praman pension certificates.

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