The mainstream internet is about two decades old. It has revolutionised the way we buy things, transact, pay our bills, acquire and disseminate information and the very way in which we spend our time – I see young guys hang out in the park with their friends while constantly staring at their mobile phones!
However, the huge benefits and conveniences have a downside. Technological advancements often force people to get stuff that they do not want.
It is a perhaps a “minority” that are inconvenienced that way and is often used as an excuse to remove choice. But is that enough justification? Here are some examples.
A Few days ago, I saw an article in the Hindu that said, senior citizens may soon need an Aadhar card to avail railway concession. In the name of preventing misuse, the railways will inconvenience tens of thousands of senior citizens. Should the govt not focus on integrating Pan card, ration card, driving licence, voter ID and other databases so that misuse can be prevented? Just like income based LPG subsidy, this integration will enable income -based reservation or eligibility of SSY (impossible in our lifetime?!)
The point is, the govt wants to leverage Aadhar technology to its benefit and is gradually forcing its citizens to get an Aadhar card in spite of a court judgement!
B The same is true of banks. Although it is not mandatory, banks are “gently” urging its senior citizens to get Aadhar so that life certificates can be issued online. In fact, my mum’s banker was not so gentle. He called and said, her pension would be stopped if she did not furnish an Aadhar! Rubbish!
C The internet may be convenient but it is also dangerous. It can be used to steal identities and wealth. This has led to the use of double authentication (DA) techniques. The most commonly used way is to send a one-time password to a mobile number to authenticate a second time.
Thanks to feedback from members at FB group Asan Ideas of Wealth, I was surprised to find that so many banks force double authentication just to login! While some banks require it only for transacting.
A few years ago when SBI implemented DA for the first time, a colleague asked, “why should I have a mobile number just to use an online bank account?” Perhaps most people would dismiss that by saying a mobile number is essential these days. How can anyone not want/have one!
That is not the point. A choice of not wanting a mobile has been done away with for those who want an online bank account! The same argument is true for an email too!
I am not against DA. It is very essential. In the words of former Google spam chief, Matt Cutts, “the internet is a very bad place”! However, the user must be given a choice about the second mode of authentication – mobile, email, secret question, or any other information that can verify online presence reliably.
Such a choice ensures we have a way into the system if one mode fails – for eg. lost or inaccessible mobile.
D Have you noticed that public telephones have almost disappeared! I have to buy a mobile just because of that else I need to borrow someone else’s phone. They have not disappeared in Europe or the US. Do they not use mobiles? Again this is just callousness. The government just assumes that no one will use a public phone just because “most of them have mobiles”. What if I lose my mobile in an unknown location?! Again, choice is the casualty.
E Why are businesses obsessed with apps? For good reason. According to a report,
As of August 2016, 44 percent of total global web traffic comes from mobile phones — a growth of 6,185 percent in seven short years.
Nothing short of incredible. However, a good 50% still continue to use desktops. Well, then what baffles me is that why can’t I book a Uber or Ola without a smart phone?! Is it so uneconomical or unviable or unprofitable to provide that choice?
Why can’t I buy stuff online from a mobile browser instead of downloading an app and possibly allow websites to track my usage for their analytics?
Maybe there are more such examples of businesses and the government wanting to leverage technology to its benefit by removing a deep-rooted option preferred by at least a few. This is as far as my thinking takes me.
I will not be surprised if this post is dismissed as a social misfit ranting away. I write this in the hope that at least a few would agree with me.
Over to you. What do you think?