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Nagarik App, Nepal Government’s Initiation to Digitize Public Services

Nagarik app, which crossed 300 thousand downloads in just less than a week of its launch, has been a topic of discussion. Netizens have been discussing and expressing their concerns about security, features, and other problems in the app.

The app that provides all the government services online has been launched in a beta version. Beta is a version of a piece of software that is made available for testing.

The government claims that this is one of the national pride projects of Nepal under the Digital Nepal Framework. It is soon expected that this app will put an end to the hassles of carrying the documents like citizenship, passport, academic certificates, and other official papers.

What users’ say about Nagarik App?

Youth comprising professionals, IT enthusiasts, and students have been posting and tweeting their reactions. While few have welcomed the initiation saying this is one of the crucial steps towards digitization, most are skeptical of this app.

A good number of people have been showing concern about data security as Nepal government sites have been repeatedly hacked in recent times. Some are doubtful of its benefit and want more clarity on its feature and use.

After much hype, Sugat Shrestha, a freelance IT Consultant installed this app on the fifth day of launch. “I wasn’t able to log in with my citizenship, passport, and voters ID on the fourth day. However, it seems like the problem got solved now,”

Shrestha added, “I immediately got registered with my passport on the fifth day.” He says that the app will be beneficial if users don’t have to carry a hard copy of these official documents when they have it installed.

What are the features?

Currently, we can get details of our Passport, Citizenship, Education Certificate, Provident Fund, Voter Card, Citizens Investment Fund, and Social Security Fund. We can also complain about the issues regarding the app or others through the Hello Sarkar option in the app.

Once we request detail, entering the respective numbers, the system will link us to our data in the particular office.

For example: if we enter our Permanent Account Number (PAN) number, we get details of the PAN card. Also, we can apply for a PAN card through the app.

Recently, through his Facebook page, Prime Minister KP Oli shared that the app has made it convenient for the citizens to get official documents even during public holidays. He informed that 325 people got their PAN number through the app on Saturday.

In the upcoming days, we can also get services and our data from public offices including Land Revenue Office (Malpot), Department of Land Reform and Management, Transportation Tax, Driving License, and others.

How to login to Nagarik App?

The download process is normal like installing any other app. We need to go to the Play Store and type Nagarik App and install it.

To login to the app, one needs to have a mobile number registered in their own name. We can dial *922# to check the registration details of the NTC number and *9966# for details of the Ncell number.

If one is using a SIM registered in another’s name, the user either needs to transfer the number in their respective names or get a new SIM to log in.

We get a code to proceed to the app and need to fill in the details of Citizenship/passport/voter’s ID as per the requirement and enter the app.

What concerned stakeholders say?

According to the official data from National Information Technology Centre (NITC), three hundred eleven thousand one hundred and fifty-three users had downloaded the app till Wednesday. However, only 27 percent of the users have been verified.

According to the data, so far 31 thousand 676 users have verified their passport, 28 thousand users their voter identity card, 39 thousand 715 users their PAN number, 19 thousand 109 users have verified School Leaving Certificate (SLC), and 8,486 users higher education certificates through the app till Wednesday.

According to Ramesh Prasad Pokhrel, spokesperson of (NITC) still there are many pending requests. “One reason for the pending request maybe because their name or spelling in the SIM card is different from the one in their citizenship,” Pokhrel says.

Pokhrel says that gradually the users will be able to access their data recorded in around 40 government services.

During the inauguration of the app last week, Minister of Information and Technology Parbat Gurung said that this app will help the citizens integrate their essential government documents into their mobile phones.

According to him, one can get services online round the clock and even on public holidays.

The government had included the Nagarik App in the policies and programme of Fiscal Year 2075/76.

“It will take a minimum of six months to function full-fledged,” informs Pokhrel. Though all Nepalis use citizenship as their identity card and the internet penetration is good, it will take time to know about the app.

Although a group of social media users has created a buzz, there is a major chunk of the population who have no idea about the Nagarik app.

“We need to educate about features in the app and its significance and to the people in nooks and corners of the country,” Pokhrel says.

Is the Nagarik app safe?

With the increasing number of people sharing and transferring data on the internet, the risk can’t be ignored. Hackers have been frequently breaching the data of National interest including data on government websites of Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Muslim Commission, and the Central Library.

“We are working to ensure optimum security,” adds Naresh Lamgade, a cybersecurity expert in the Prime Minister’s office and founder, Bugv and Cynical Technology, which is looking after the cybersecurity of Nagarik App.

He says that the government has been giving rewards to IT experts who are finding glitches in the application.

According to him, Nagarik app is just an integrated platform which validates the data and connects us to get detail in different public services. “So, there is less chance for data leakage,” says Lamgade.

According to Bijay Limbu Senihang, CTO of Vairav Technology and cybersecurity expert, Nepal government hasn’t set any standards for app security. “So, which standard have they followed for the security of this application? This itself is a question mark,” he views.

He says that two-factor authentication is only one level of cybersecurity. “I appreciate that the government has touched this layer. However, we need to have seven layers of protection to protect any critical infrastructure,”

Senihang adds “This app has very critical data which is not just connected with one place but multiple public entities. So, the app has to be highly secure.”

Urgent need to improve functionality and security of Nagarik app

The app has been developed with the joint initiation of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, and National Information Technology Centre. Professionals, IT geeks, experts, and other users have been urging the need to discuss the overall functionality and security of the app.

Though the attraction of the citizens is admirable, they have been facing problems in functioning. “Security is a secondary issue. First, the basic function and features have to be smooth and reliable. But we are not getting that from Nagarik app,” views Senihang.

Experts also say that the government needs to re-release the application addressing all the functional and security loopholes. “The app is a much-needed platform for the citizen at this point in time. However, it has to be reliable and secured,” says Senihang.

Officials in Prime Minister’s Office admit the glitches in the application. A source from the PM Office says that the app has been released in Beta version so that they can get feedback from citizens.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, it has started developing an online system for correcting the mistakes after a majority of users of the app complained of mistakes in the information related to their citizenship certificate. They say that the system will be implemented around 10 days from now.

According to Prime Minister’s Office, the government is currently prioritizing the verification part. According to an official from PM office, the next priority would be connecting to services of Transport Management offices like applying for the driving license and transport tax.

The concerned authorities of this national-level project claim that the developers are working to increase the level of security.

“We are also working to create a communication channel between ethical hackers and Nepali businesses. With this, the experts will be able to point out the loopholes and convey the government immediately,” says Lamgade.

The initiators from all three government offices have been regularly updating about the need for improvement in the application.

However, as the system involves crucial national data, the government must think seriously and take critical action as soon as possible to win back the trust of citizens and ensure security to the users.

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