After PAN & Aadhaar, Protean Now Leverages AI for Citizen-Centric Solutions

   2024-05-30 04:05

Protean eGov Technologies, a provider of e-governance solutions, was instrumental in rolling out critical platforms such as the PAN card, Tax Information Network (TIN), the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PRAN) and Aadhaar to release use cases like eSign and eKYC.

The company now sees immense potential for AI-powered infrastructure across domains like healthcare, education, agriculture, and governance. It is developing AI-powered chatbots that can communicate in local languages, besides promoting inclusion and accessibility to government services. It is also building AI models for fraud detection.

Targeting Startups, SMEs, and Government Agencies

Protean is targeting startups, SMEs, and government agencies with its “very sovereign data cloud offering”. 

Without naming specific clients, Metesh Bhati, CDO of Protean eGov in conversation with AIM, mentioned that a few government agencies are already using Protean’s cloud services, with some of their existing data centres migrating to Protean cloud. 

The clientele includes both public and private sector organisations seeking reliable and secure cloud solutions.

“Our vision is to align with People+AI to provide advanced machine learning tools and support innovative projects in smart cities and predictive analytics within the public sector,” said Bhati. 

Protean has given in-principle approval to partner with Open Cloud Compute (OCC), an offering by People Plus AI, to design an open network from the supply side. “That’s where we are saying we’ll be offering the AI infrastructure,” Bhati added.

Protean eGov’s first contribution to the AI mission is its in-principle approval to be part of the OCC initiative, which aims to scale up India’s AI capabilities. 

The company recognises the need for a distributed cloud and compute infrastructure rather than a centralised one, drawing inspiration from successful examples like Aadhaar and the Account Aggregator framework.

“Instead of building big techs that need data centres powered by nuclear fuel, etc., we can have a distributed cloud and compute rather than centralised,” Bhati explained. 

Protean eGov is also exploring the concept of making AI agents available on open networks, allowing anyone to consume and contribute to them.

ProKisaan App: Reimagining Farmers’ Lives

Protean eGov recently conducted a proof-of-concept called ProKisaan app, reimagining farmers’ lives using the combinatorial power of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) like UPI, Bhashini for localisation, and ONDC for buying, selling, and procuring. 

The company partnered with Google to provide data on weather, MSP rates, and the best crops to sow, making these decision points available in local languages.

ProKisaan offers a range of features to assist farmers at every stage of the agricultural process. The app provides weather predictions and decision support for crop selection based on the season. It also enables farmers to procure fertilisers and seeds through the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC).

One of the key highlights of ProKisaan is the integration of Honest, an AI-powered chatbot that offers bite-sized learning modules on various topics relevant to farmers. 

“Today, as individuals, we use a lot of these LLMs. If we have a question, we just prompt it and get an answer. We thought, why not use these Honest trails and have a quick small bite-sized learning offering through Honest,” Bhati explained.

ProKisaan also leverages AI to detect crops and create catalogues, allowing farmers to easily publish their yield on the network for potential buyers. The app supports UPI transactions and is localised in multiple languages using Bhashini, with plans to expand the language reach through Google’s technology stack.

“There is immense scope here. Maybe we can have multiple learning modules; kids can use it to ask questions in local languages; and there can be healthcare offering of IDs available,” Bhati added. 

Protean developed ProKisaan as a proof-of-concept in collaboration with Google and other partners, demonstrating the potential of combining AI, DPIs, and open digital ecosystems to create transformative solutions for citizens.

Leveraging AI Across Public Sector Projects

Protean eGov is witnessing a growing demand for AI-powered solutions from its existing customers and future opportunities. 

“Most of our existing customers and the future opportunities are talking about AI. And when we say they’re talking about AI, it is about how AI can come in to make things autonomous, agile, and all-inclusive,” Bhati said.

The company has worked with over eight ministries in the past and is now focusing on leveraging AI to enhance personalisation, engagement, and inclusion in its offerings. It is also exploring how AI can help prevent fraud and improve the safety and speed of its products.

“Whether it’s our existing customers of PAN, where it is a customer, or PFRDA as a regulator and other products, there is a unanimous ask on how AI can intervene and do things more, how our products can be safer, faster, and inclusive,” Bhati explained.

Protean eGov’s roadmap includes developing AI-powered solutions for fraud detection and localised language chatbots for external customers. Internally, the company is experimenting with AI to accelerate code development and reviews, optimise infrastructure management, and strengthen security posture.

“Security is something that we are paranoid about as an organisation. Can AI come in to support us on our security posturing are few of the experiments we are running ourselves as well as with the collaboration partnership we have with the big techs,” Bhati added.

Advocating for Verifiable Credentials and Data Minimisation

While GenAI continues to transform industries and raise concerns about data security, Protean eGov advocates for the adoption of verifiable credentials and data minimisation to safeguard personal information.

“Data is sacrosanct, specifically PII (personally identifiable information), and with the new DPDP about to be rolled out, I guess the control is more about the data not owned by the organisation, but of the individual,” Bhati said, emphasising the importance of treating data as sacrosanct, especially in light of the upcoming Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill.

Bhati highlighted the growing awareness among urban populations about data ownership and privacy. 

“Individuals, at least the urban population like you and me, are more aware of our data. We are very particular about it, be it on social media or while talking to our banks, investment, etc. It’s eventually us and our data as individuals,” he added.

Protean eGov believes that technologies like AI and blockchain can play a crucial role in enabling verifiable credentials, allowing for authentication and verification without the need to share sensitive information like Aadhaar or PAN card numbers. 

Bhati cited the example of DigiYatra, a contactless passenger processing system that uses facial recognition technology backed by Aadhaar, as a successful use case of verifiable credentials.

“Today, there are technologies, I wouldn’t say specifically AI, where verifiable credentials can play a role without sharing the information, your authentication verification. So, you need not even share your Aadhaar number or PAN card number per se,” Bhati explained.

Protean eGov believes that the adoption of verifiable credentials and data minimisation can help organisations lower their costs associated with securing and encrypting personally identifiable information (PII). 

“I guess in the next couple of years, the verifiable credential where I don’t think any organisation would need to save any  of this PII data because it will work on more on a verification basis,” Bhati added.

Partnerships with Microsoft and Google

Protean eGov is actively collaborating with tech giants Microsoft and Google to develop innovative product offerings and establish Centers of Excellence focused on emerging technologies like AI and DPI.

One of the key areas of collaboration is leveraging DPIs available in India, productising them, and using large tech companies to further scale and develop common go-to-market strategies. 

Protean is also working with organisations like MOSIP (Modular Open Source Identity Platform) and OpenCRVS (Civil Registration and Vital Statistics) to extend its reach internationally.

On the security front, Protean has been experimenting with Microsoft’s Security Copilot and Google’s security solutions. The company is also utilising Google’s Vertex AI to create predictive modelling for fraud detection, drawing inspiration from how Google alerts users when logging in from an unfamiliar IP or device.

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