Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An update on Unique Id Project - AADHAAR

Nandan Nilekani, Chairman, UIDAI at the unveiling of the brand name- 'AADHAAR' and its logo in New Delhi on Monday. The name 'AADHAAR' communicates the fundamental role of the number issued by the UIDAI. PTI

UNIQUE ID is the greatest, toughest and the most complex test for Indian software industry's expertise and efficiency. If India is the world's software services mecca, Unique Id is its biggest challenge to show its prowess. UID can bring out a social transformation never seen before and if it fails, it will be the biggest disaster in Indian software industry. 

There are literally millions of people across India who cannot get a SIM card, cannot get a ration card, cannot get a PAN card, can't open a bank account simply because there is no proof of their identity. On the other end millions of people manage to get fake Driver Licenses, fake Ration cards, fake Electoral ID and even fake PAN. This is a headache not only for govt and government agencies, but also for Election Commission. One of the main reasons corruption thrives is also because of this extremity.


India has

  • 70 million PAN cards
  • 60 million passports
  • 90 million Drivers License
  • 240 million bank account holders
  • 170 million LIC policy holders
  • 150 million Below Poverty Line cards (BPL)

Quick Update:

In my earlier article, Unique Id is it worth it?, I did mention that there are huge challenges in implementation, technology, storage and usage. The project though has gone far ahead from then till now and there is a proper structure with efficient people, and honest officials and have already begun to implement the Unique Id in certain districts and villages.

Very recently, there was a competition which received 2000 entries and finally the logo was unveiled by a farmer and the project was named AADHAAR - which means support.

Tumkur, Mysore, Nalanda (Bihar), some villages in Andhra - the pilot biometric collection has been kicked off.  The targets that are set up are 2500 profiles within 20 days and so forth.

Note: I made all tables below based on several articles in paper and news media.

For these, refer to Documents section under http://uid.gov.in/. There are lots of documents, memorandums of understandings, how the process will be executed and so forth.


While UID will not be mandatory, slowly everyone will mandate the usage forcing everyone to have one. The ENROLLMENT FEE IS Rs. 25. However, the coastal and border region inhabitants will have to mandatorily enroll to know who is an illegal immigrant and who is not. This is very crucial. The non-availability of distinction is one of the main reasons a lot of terrorists escape.

A crucial area where UID is expected to make wonders is the way of identifying extremely poor people (people below poverty line or BPL). Once their biometrics are identified, the systems will be changed to ensure it is only those who get the real welfare benefits like food, subsidized kerosene, employment benefits, etc. Even if UID is able to achieve a 15% change, it will force it to become more than 70% as Govt would want to call itself transparent and garner votes. 42% malnutrition and 75% of Indian children suffer from anemia - data is enough to understand how corruption cuts off the real beneficiaries from Govt's welfare programs.

Another huge scope of this project is bringing banking to people who are outside its gambit. Almost 50% of people don't have any bank account. Even if we reach 100 million through UID, it would have done great wonders to Indian economy and people. Currently, government has mandated all wages, government payments, pensions, compensations, etc to be dispersed only through bank accounts. But with absence of bank accounts, corruption thrives and there is no way to track them. Hence, RBI has tied up with UID so that it can provide banking services to all those whose names enter UID database.

LIC has tied with UID to share its database to ensure the UID can verify the identity as majority of them would not give wrong address on an insurance policy.

Income Tax is planning to issue biometric PAN once UID is in place so that the number of fake PAN will reduce.

Rampant corruption has plagued those places where people work as laborers under Rural Employment Gaurantee Program and the govt has decided to use biometric verification to plug the leaks in wages being sent to people who do not have bank accounts.

What would be the attributes of Unique Id?

If you notice, Unique Id will only act as an identification service. So, it can be used as a web service and interfaced with all other agencies and govt/private organizations to verify people in their respective databases are indeed the right people. So, UID won't store more than this, but is going to be the single point of confirmation/verification for all departments and agencies.

So,what is the enrollment procedure?

The process is explained visually from the document published on the site,

If you notice there is the usage of the word "registrar" which could be any agency/organization which can help in verification. These are (could be more than the list below) listed as below:

The real open ended questions are many. Some of them that struck my mind are as below:
  • How will UID be generated for people who have no identifiable documents? They will be introduced into the system without proper identification. In some villages the only verification registrar used is panachayat offices and Election Commission records. But will all those records be genuine? If not (so many are full of errors), what is the way the person will be identified other than by generating a number for them?
  • No one knows how much personal information will be exposed and to whom and how. It can be serious privacy breach. Hence, Nilekani is working towards a draft legislation which has to be passed in Parliament and there is going to be a fierce discussion on this. 
  • Can states misuse the info if they are allowed to manipulate? Who will be given read-only access?
  • What private agencies can share this data and what rules govern their usage?
  • Will people remember their 12 digit number? 
  • When the verification step is involved, will it be done against all the registrars or only a few of them? If few are involved, will it be genuine? If all are involved, will it not be an overkill?
  • One of the listed registrars is Gas agencies. How can gas agencies verify if they don't have any computerized mechanism? Definitely, not all have it.
  • All other agencies which plan to use UID will have to modify their softwares (if at all they have) to adapt to the data in the format UID will provide. This may be a headache only for banks as only they have computerization to the maximum extent.
Plans of promoting UID Enrollment:

Practical Challenges Seen in the Pilot test in selected villages:
Interesting Case Studies can be read here

Who is providing the biometric gadgets to this project?
An Indian based company 4G Identity Solutions: Website: http://www.4gid.com/
Florida based Crossmatch Technologies. Website: http://www.crossmatch.com/


Pratik Shah said...

good information out here :)

raj said...

nice to know this everyone should read this