Eligibility Determination

In order to make direct transfers governments need to identify the right beneficiaries for the various schemes - based on the scheme specific criteria. The data required for determining eligibility may include land holdings, electricity usage, vehicle ownership, financial transactions, age, gender, caste etc. These records currently reside in the respective departments but many ministries/departments are running initiatives to pull data into a centralised database.

Over time systems have collated all the data into a centralised databases and are in a position to correlate these data to formulate a comprehensive profile of all the citizens. While the objective of such databases is to identify eligible beneficiaries, there are several challenges that may not aling with an ideal DPI design principles.

  1. Single Source of Truth - The respective departments are the legal “registrars” of the respective attributes e.g. Vehicle records are owned by the Road Transport Department and so on. If data is being pushed into the central database, the ownership of ensuring the data is up to date should reside with the respective departments. The system must be designed in a manner to ensure that the most recent record is used to determine the eligibility criteria.

  2. Security - Creating such a centralised database will make it a high risk asset and will require substantial investments in security to ensure adequate protection. Any compromise and unauthorised access to this database may cause irreverasable damage.

  3. Privacy - Several questions around privacy arise which needs to be addressed e.g. will beneficiaries have visibility in the attributes that are being stored and used for eligibility determination, is there a process for them to raise correction requests, what mechanisms are put in place to ensure limit purpose of use of these databases, can beneficiaries opt out of such a database, etc.

  4. Anomaly Detection - Since this database will be used for beneficiary eligibility, it will be a target for fraud. Mechanisms need to be put in place to detect anomalies e.g. population stability indexes must be computed and compared to ensure no large scale changes in the database are happening to enable inclusion in a specific scheme.

To solve for above design principles, designers of these systems must consider federated services architecture rather than centralised databases. Instead of pulling all the data into a central database, it may be possible to implement a centralised “Beneficiary Eligibility” service which in turn calls respective departments “Beneficiary Eligibility” service that returns a “Yes/No” answer or minimal required information. So a scheme system queries the centralised beneficiary eligibility API by sending one or multiple records to it. The service then calls the respective department systems to check the beneficiary eligibility in their respective databases and revert with a result.

The social program registry may cache this minimal information and additionally integrate with subscribe/notify api's to get notified on any source data changes at an agreed frequency to ensure latest correct data is available. This API driven approach shall ensure seamless integration with no manual intervention for each refresh cycle.

Registration into social program scheme can allow beneficiary grant/revoke consent to access federated registries. Social program eligibility rules determine the source data sources to be linked to enable eligibiltiy determination. In addition to beneficiary consent, additional governance policies between systems to control attribute, aggregate level access to bring in trust.

A federated architecture as illustrated below ensures the legal registrars of the data continue to hold respective the system of records while granting limited access to determine eligibility through standardised interfaces like registry search api.

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