Aadhaar at the Core of Digital India

Ram Sewak Sharma

In India, an inability to prove identity is one of the biggest barriers preventing the poor from accessing benefits and subsidies. Public as well as private sector agencies across the country typically require proof of identity before providing individuals with services – be it opening a bank account, getting a phone connection, travelling in a train, applying for school/college admission, availing subsidised food grains by the underprivileged, applying for a job etc. This approach is especially unfair to India’s poor and underprivileged residents, who usually lack documentation and find it difficult to meet the costs of multiple verification processes.

Traditionally, documents like PAN card, voter card, driving license, bank passbooks etc. have been used as identity document. If one examines, all the documents mentioned above are “entitlement” documents and not really identity document. The primary purpose of PAN card is to bring a universal identification to all financial transactions and to manage taxation. A driving license entitles someone to drive. A voter card gives voting rights to an individual in a specific constituency. Since none of these documents have the mandate to be an identity document and all are based on demographic data, little due diligence can follow for ensuring de-duplication and uniquely identifying an individual. Besides, none of these cards have a universal (or a near universal) coverage. 

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was established in February 2009 with the purpose of issuing a unique identification number (UID) to all Indian residents. The key mandate given to UIDAI was to provide UID to every resident that is (a) robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities and (b) can be verified and authenticated in an easy, cost-effective way. Enrolment for UID, christened as Aadhaar, started in October 2010 and by March 2015, almost 800 million Aadhaar numbers were issued.

Aadhaar has caused many a paradigm shifts. First and foremost, in a country where a majority of people had no way to establish their identity, they have leapfrogged from no identity to online identity. Another major shift is the usage of biometric technology for service delivery. All other countries use biometrics for matters such as internal security, forensics, immigration checks etc. However, India opted for an identity platform based on biometrics for service delivery in the social sector rather
than security.

Aadhaar has also resulted in the largest service delivery re-engineering programme in the world. As more and more government delivery programmes are beginning to leverage Aadhaar, they necessarily need to digitise and transform their underlying processes and delivery mechanism. Since Aadhaar in an online identity, any service that needs to use Aadhaar needs to be in online format. Aadhaar adoption by various service delivery programmes has expedited the long pending process transformation and digitisation of most government programmes.

In this paper, we examine the key features of Aadhaar and the underlying technology platform that make it such a powerful transformational tool, key implementation decisions that made the speed of Aadhaar rollout unprecedented and lessons large government programmes can take from Aadhaar rollout programme, the transformations that are resulting from Aadhaar platform and finally the challenges & way forward. 

Aadhaar: An Enabling Platform

Key features of Aadhaar that make it so transformational in nature are online authenticable digital cradle-to-grave portable identity. The two key pillars of Aadhaar system are biometric enrolment and online authentication service. This provides a foundation for all other service delivery programmes to re-engineer their services and delivery platform to better target delivery to their customers/beneficiaries.

Aadhaar is the first initiative worldwide that provides identity through effective use of biometric technology, which is at the heart of Aadhaar. Biometric serves two basic purposes in Aadhaar. The first one is to ensure uniqueness during enrolment and the second is to enable online authentication. 

When a person enrolls for Aadhaar, his/her basic demographic details along with finger (all ten fingerprints) and iris (both) images are captured. When this data is processed at the back-end, the biometric images of this person are compared with the biometrics of all other Aadhaar holders who have enrolled earlier. This back-end process, called de-duplication, ensures one person is issued only one Aadhaar irrespective of the number of times one may have tried to enroll.

Aadhaar authentication is the process wherein Aadhaar number, along with the attribute to be verified (demographic/biometrics/OTP) is submitted to UIDAI’s Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) for verification; the CIDR verifies whether the data submitted matches the data available in CIDR and responds with a “yes/no”. The purpose of authentication is to enable residents to prove their identity and for service providers to confirm that the residents are ‘who they say they are’ in order to supply services and give access to benefits.

Another service offered by UIDAI is eKYC, which is essentially a wrapper on top of Aadhaar authentication. The eKYC service enables a resident having an Aadhaar number to share his/her demographic information and photograph with a UIDAI partner organisation in an online, secure, auditable manner with the resident’s consent.

These services and features of Aadhaar render it as a platform that can be used by any public service delivery programme to curb leakages and duplicates in the system, do targeted service delivery to entitled beneficiaries, improve supply chain and distribution networks, improve transparency, accountability and vigilance in the system and render service delivery as demand-driven and portable.

Key Success Factors of Aadhaar

In a short span of less than 5 years, UIDAI has been able to achieve numbers and build an ecosystem that has been unheard of before the Aadhaar era. With respect to number of transactions, almost 800 million Aadhaar have been generated with steady rate of a million a day. Aadhaar generation and authentication transactions are already in excess of a million a day. 

Enrolment ecosystem comprises 68 registrars and 241 enrolment agencies. Operator training & certification centers are available in every state capital and every major city of the country. There are 27 certified biometric device suppliers in the enrolment ecosystem.

Authentication ecosystem has 66 registered Authentication User Agencies (AUA) who use online Aadhaar authentication for delivering their services. There are 13 Authentication Service Agencies (ASA) that have established connectivity with UIDAI’s data center for provisioning online authentication. 411 banks—public sector, co-operative, rural regional, private and foreign banks—have latched on Aadhaar financial platform through NPCI.

The scale that Aadhaar has been able to achieve is a result of some conscious policy decisions and systematic “project management” based approach that UIDAI adopted during its design phase. Key such decisions include:

  • Self-incentivised ecosystem that enables field level team to drive speedier adoption.
  • Open, standards-based inter-operable platform to allow easy plug-and-play for various service delivery/support systems.
  • Multiple service providers to ensure required quality while containing costs and minimal dependency on a single vendor.
  • Centralised control & definition of quality, technology and processes to ensure robust backbone and adequate quality of data in the system.
  • Focused project management based approach, well designed proof of concept studies (PoCs) & pilots followed by large scale rollout.

These design decisions can be key learnings for other large scale government projects that have millions of citizen interfaces. For example, eKranti of NeGP 2.0 now adopts the open standards and inter-operable principles that Aadhaar followed.

Some of these decisions, which require further explanation are elaborated in this paper.

Self-Incentivised Ecosystem

One of the mandates given to UIDAI was to leverage existing infrastructure in the country for rolling out Aadhaar enrolment. Aadhaar authentication, by definition, needs to be used by different service agencies for delivering their services to the beneficiaries.

UIDAI leveraged this mandate and worked towards creating a self-incentivised ecosystem, while retaining a lean organisation structure itself, to rollout Aadhaar platform. The ecosystem has been designed in such a way that UIDAI continues to have control over technology, data security and processes that are essential for capturing quality data required for generating Aadhaar. At the same time Registrars (entities that collect resident data on behalf of UIDAI) are given a large choice of enrolment agencies which created sufficient competition in the market to carry out high quality enrolment at low-cost and high speed. Similarly, residents are given a wide choice of Registrars through whom they can enroll for Aadhaar basis their convenience.

Since the financial payout to enrolment agencies happens basis successful Aadhaar generation, quality and speed of enrolment is ensured bottoms up. This self-incentivised ecosystem has propelled Aadhaar enrolment at a speed faster than even mobile phone adoption in the country. Almost 800 million Aadhaar numbers have been generated within four-and-a-half years of launch of Aadhaar enrolment.

Open, Standards-Based Inter-Operable Platform

Generally when e-Governance applications are built, they are designed and developed de-novo as per the requirements of the concerned domain. There is little attempt to create standard components and standards of interfaces which could enable re-use of these applications and making it easy for other applications to talk to them for interchange of data or for other purposes. However, a digital identity platform can serve the value it is designed for only when other user applications have some means to latch on to it. This requires that the interfaces of the platform are standardised and follow well established standards. 

Considering this, a crucial design decision behind Aadhaar system was setting down standards of data capture and development of well defined Application Programming Interface (APIs) to communicate with other applications and systems. Even various component of this platform are organised as loosely-coupled systems communicating with standard communication protocols.

The design of enrolment process and technology was preceded by definition of standards related to demographic and biometric data. The authentication platform is designed around open APIs and so is the eKYC platform. The entire biometric authentication system is an open one and ISO standards based without dependency on any single biometric device/algorithm supplier. 

The biometric devices used for both enrolment and authentication services have gone through a strict rigor of standards definition and certification process. Another key factor for ensuring quality of Aadhaar data is the capability of operators enrolling the residents. UIDAI has set up an ecosystem and training/certification requirements for the enrolment operators.

UIDAI has been actively publishing documentation of these standards and APIs. Some important APIs and Standards are as below:

  • Aadhaar Registered Devices Specification 1.0
  • ABIS API 1.0
  • Biometric Capture Device API
  • UID Biometrics Capture API
  • e-KYC API Document Version 1.0
  • Aadhaar One Time Pin (OTP) API 1.5
  • Aadhaar Best Finger Detection (BFD) API 1.6
  • Aadhaar Authentication API 1.6
  • Aadhaar Biometric SDK API 2.0

Multiple Service Providers

One of the key features of having a large ecosystem was creating multiple service providers for as many service areas as possible. For enrolment field level operations, UIDAI has empanelled about 250 enrolment agencies, which create sufficient competition to ensure quality while containing costs. To help various government departments quickly adopt Aadhaar, UIDAI empanelled consultants and application development agencies that are well versed in Aadhaar platform and can help in faster roll out of Aadhaar based applications.

To reduce the risk in the area of biometric de-duplication, UIDAI came up with a completely out of box solution. UIDAI decided to engage as many as three biometric service providers (BSPs)! It turns out that this was one of the most innovative decisions relating to technology deployment. Having multiple BSPs solved the problem relating to measurement of accuracy and also reduced the implementation risk arising out of failure of a single BSP and the programme coming to halt.

Aadhaar & Financial Inclusion

The largest application of Aadhaar today has been in financial inclusion space. Aadhaar enabled banking platform comprises three key components – Aadhaar Enabled Bank Accounts (AEBA), Aadhaar Payment Bridge (APB) and Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS). AEBA volume is captured by NPCI through its “mapper” report. As on 4 March 2015, the NPCI mapper had more than 150 million Aadhaar numbers mapped to bank accounts. The monthly APB transactions in February 2015 was over 50 million in terms of volume and over Rs. 15.7 billion in terms of monetary value. This reflects that over 15.7 billion rupees in a single month were credited directly into bank accounts of beneficiaries without involvement of any middlemen and without any leakages! Just extrapolate this number when the coverage of Aadhaar mapper and beneficiaries of various government schemes through Aadhaar reaches almost 100 per cent and one can imagine the grassroot level transformation (and elimination of grass-root level corruption) Aadhaar can bring to the nation.

It is also important to note that the current volume in APB is largely a result of government subsidies flowing into bank accounts of people. The next wave of transformation will result when people start using this platform for transferring money to each other. Imagine a migrant worker using APB to instantly send Rs. 2000 every month to his family in a village in Jharkhand from Delhi. Probably we will start seeing double the numbers in APB transactions when that channel becomes prevalent too, hopefully with the opening up of payment banks and small banks system in the country.

Another transformation in making is the way bank customers do last mile transactions. AEPS, which involves using micro-ATMs and biometric authentication to carry out banking transactions, is an immediate follow up of the off-take of APB. As APB transactions gain a critical mass and the right business models get developed with setting up of payment banks and small banks, AEPS transactions will soon hit transaction volumes that no banking system worldwide would have witnessed so far.

It is also just a matter of time before Aadhaar platform is leveraged by other banking products (loans and insurance) to reach out to the large masses of the country. A BCG-CII report – “Financial Inclusion – From Obligation to Opportunity” – forecasts that Aadhaar platform will be leveraged to enable all dimensions of banking – savings, credits and insurance – to the underprivileged as a financially lucrative business opportunity for banks and financial institutions. The biggest beneficiaries of this transformation will, of course, be the marginalised and poor who have little access to formal banking services today.

Aadhaar & Digital India 

The Digital India programme is centred on three key vision areas:

  1. Digital Infrastructure as a Utility to Every Citizen
  2. Governance and Services on Demand
  3. Digital Empowerment of Citizens

The benefits that Aadhaar brings to government services could be seen from two perspectives – benefits to the citizens and benefits to the government/service provider. While the first and last vision areas are more about benefits Digital India programme and Aadhaar would bring to citizens, the “Governance and Services on Demand” vision area, when implemented through Aadhaar, will accrue benefits to both citizens and government.

Digital Infrastructure as a Utility to Every Citizen

The key tenets on which this vision area is based are:

  • High speed Internet as a core utility
  • Digital identity – cradle to grave
  • Mobile phone and bank account 
  • Common Services Centres
  • Shareable private space on a public cloud

Aadhaar has direct impact on two of these tenets. Aadhaar is the cradle-to-grave digital identity which is online authenticable. The digitisation that Aadhaar brings to identity verification, will replace a vast paper-based system that had long established itself across India’s service infrastructure. The number, thanks to the reliable, online identity verification it offers, can enable the targeted delivery of services and prevent leakage and fraud in government programmes. The soon-to-be-launched e-Sign, which rides on Aadhaar eKYC is expected to make the entire agreement process between service providers and customers/beneficiaries paperless and instant. 

The eKYC platform of Aadhaar enables better mobile and bank account coverage in the country as more and more people are able to establish their identity to these service providers and hence avail the service. Industry experts estimate that paperless eKYC using Aadhaar can bring substantial financial savings to telecom companies by reducing KYC non-compliance fines and by reducing the cost of paper based back-end processes. 

The BCG-CII report – analyses that the current per annum cost of serving a bank account is Rs. 300-350 and the corresponding revenue figures are 3-4 times lower, which makes banking for rural and underprivileged financially unviable. The paper suggests that adopting Aadhaar platform along with other interventions such as interoperable online platform, leveraging low-cost distribution network of Telcos & FMCG, etc. will take the current financial inclusion drive from an obligation perceived by banks to an opportunity where both the service providers and customers derive huge benefits.

Governance and Services-on-Demand

The second vision area is translated into following key components:

  • Integration across departments
  • Services in real-time online and mobile platforms
  • Electronic and cashless financial transactions 
  • Leveraging GIS

The second and third component of this vision can be implemented in a very short-time frame if Aadhaar is leveraged well. One fundamental change that we are going to see with Aadhaar coming in full gear is that we would shift from supply-side governance hopefully to a demand-side governance, which would emanate from electronically tagging and tracking every rupee that is being spent on the social sector.

Aadhaar actually enables the bigger government agenda of plugging leakages in social sector schemes. The aim is to incorporate the concept of Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer or DBT for all government expenditure (worth Rs. 3,00,000 crore every year) from the next fiscal, which would bring about a paradigm shift in administering of government schemes. A NIPFP study in 2012 had shown that Aadhaar can save the exchequer Rs. 50,000 crore in three years once all 1.2 crore eligible residents were enrolled with an annual rate of return of 52 per cent in the investment. The study noted that substantial benefits would accrue to the government by integrating Aadhaar with schemes such as PDS, MGNREGS, fertiliser and LPG subsidies as well as certain housing, education and health programmes (see Table 2.1: Cost-Benefit analysis of Aadhaar). The real impact of Aadhaar would be visible from the next financial year when the government plans to link it with all social sector schemes. Rajasthan’s social scheme delivery platform Bhamashah and Madhya Pradesh’s Samagra are two other big examples of its acceptance.

 

Table 2.1: Cost-benefit analysis of aadhaar (Rs. crore at constant prices)

 

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

2019-20

2020-21

Roll out
(per cent)

0

2

5

10

20

40

80

100

-

-

MGNREGS

0

61

155

317

646

1,318

2,688

3,427

3,496

3,566

PDS

0

158

412

861

1,797

3,752

7,834

10,226

10,68O

11,155

Fertiliser subsidy

0

87

214

419

821

1,609

3,154

3,863

3,786

3,710

LPG subsidy

0

32

80

161

321

643

1,286

1,607

1,607

1,607

Education

0

50

127

259

528

1,078

2,199

2,803

2,859

2,917

Indira Awaas Yojana

0

18

47

95

194

396

808

1,030

1,050

1,071

Other schemes

0

18

47

95

195

397

810

1,032

1,053

1,074

# Till 2011-12, the actual costs are presented. For subsequent years, the estimated costs are considered

Source: NIPFP

 

A case in point is provided by a MGNREGS-Aadhaar pilot study in Jharkhand, a joint initiative of UNDP and the Ministry of Rural Development. A high 91 per cent of the beneficiaries welcomed and adopted the new process and responded to continue to use it to avail uninterrupted benefits. None of the respondents wanted to revert to withdrawing money through their post office accounts/normal bank accounts (not Aadhaar-based). This finding was further strengthened as even in areas where BCs were already disbursing payments, the official felt that BC powered with micro-ATMs at CSCs provided an added advantage as it provided ease of withdrawal, Instant authorisation, expedited credit to account and arrested duplicates. Importantly, beneficiaries no longer needed the assistance of middlemen to collect their dues.

The results of a published study on the impact of biometric cards in Andhra Pradesh should further help dispel some of the most severe criticisms surrounding the Aadhaar programme. The study debunks several myths associated with biometric programmes. For one, it disabuses the notion that the poorest strata do not benefit from biometric-based programmes. Those employed under the rural jobs guarantee scheme who received payments through a biometric system spent 21 minutes less on collecting each payment and earned 23 per cent more on an average compared with those who were not a part of biometric based system. Since local officials found it difficult to siphon off funds or overstate work done, it led to a 12.2 percentage point reduction in leakage. Quite unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of those with biometric cards said they preferred the new system to the earlier one, which involved a long leaky line of intermediaries and bribe seekers. Second, the study establishes the cost efficiency of such biometric programmes. The reduced delays in payments after introduction of the system and the savings in time for beneficiaries exceeded the government’s cost of programme implementation and operation ($4.44 million in time savings compared with $4.25 million cost of implementation). If one adds the reduction in leakages, the savings will be much larger. For instance, the leakage reduction of $38.7 million per annum in the jobs scheme alone is nine times the cost of implementation.

Digital Empowerment of Citizens

The third vision area has digital-enablement of citizens as the focus area and needless to say Aadhaar, as an online authenticable digital identity, helps achieve many of the components of this vision area: 

  • Digital Literacy
  • Universally accessible digital resources
  • All documents/certificates to be available on cloud
  • Resources in Indian languages
  • Collaborative digital platforms for participative governance
  • Portability of all entitlements through cloud 

The recently launched DigiLocker will minimise the use of physical documents and will provide authenticity of the e-documents. It will provide secure access to government issued documents. It will also reduce administrative overhead of various government departments and agencies and make it easy for the residents to receive services. This digital locker facility, which provides dedicated personal storage space to residents is linked to each resident’s Aadhaar number. The e-Sign facility provided as part of DigiLocker system can be used to digitally sign e-documents.

Similarly, another government initiative, Jeevan Praman, is expected to ease the process of providing “Life Certificate” to about 12.5 million pensioners. One of the major requisite for the pensioners post their retirement from the service, is to provide life certificates to the authorised pension disbursing agencies like the bank, following which their pension is credited to their account. In order to get this Life Certificate, the individual drawing the pension is required to either personally present himself/herself before the agency or have the Life Certificate issued by authority where he/she has served earlier and have it delivered to the disbursing agency. With Jeevan Pramaan, which is based on biometric authentication, the pensioners requirement to physically present himself/herself in front of disbursing agency or the certification authority will become a thing of the past benefiting the pensioners in a huge way and cutting down on unnecessary logistical hurdles.

The soon-to-be-launched e-Sign facilitates digitally signing a document by an Aadhaar holder using an online service. The e-Sign is an integrated service that facilitates issuing a Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) and performing signing of requested data by authenticating Aadhaar holder. e-Sign will make online DSC available to Aadhaar holders instantly and will substantially lower the cost of issuing DSCs. This can render all transactions between residents and government (and other service providers) paperless. For example, the complete process of filing income tax returns can be online. Similarly, one can open a bank account through just visiting an ATM. 

Since Aadhaar is a nationwide online cradle-to-grave portable identity, all government entitlements can be made available on cloud and portable across the country. A universal identification number gives governments the chance to offer portable entitlements, which beneficiaries can claim wherever they are in the State. Through Aadhaar, services can be designed to be off-take based and choice can be given to residents to avail the service from a service provider of choice. A case in example is PDS. A better designed and Aadhaar enabled PDS has the potential to benefit beneficiaries by giving them continued access to food grains if they migrate to other places and choice to avail services from a shop that provides better services. This, in turn, will lead to better and more transparent service delivery and expanded coverage. From government perspective, needless to say, it will lead to huge reduction in leakages and better targeted delivery of services. 

Social Criticism, Challenges & Way Forward

There have been many criticisms and naysayers who believe that Aadhaar will create another kind of exclusion problem and will lead to privacy issues. With respect to exclusion issues raised, it may be noted that a stated policy of UIDAI is inclusion and there are processes designed with requisite checks and balances to ensure no genuine resident is denied Aadhaar – be it for the lack of pre-existing PoA/PoI or lack of capturable biometrics (such as leprosy patients).

With regard to privacy concerns raised, it may be noted that UIDAI follows very high level of security protocols in IT world to ensure data captured for Aadhaar enrolment is only readable at UIDAI data center and cannot be tampered with/accessed by anyone else. Additionally, UIDAI does not share data with any other agency, except through a well defined eKYC protocol after due authorisation by the Aadhaar holder. eKYC has enough checks and balances in place to ensure that demographic data provided to service delivery agencies such as banks upon Aadhaar holder’s request is not misused.

A concern raised with regards to Aadhaar is also that having a single identifier will enable the state to act as “Big Brother” and the State may encroach upon day-to-day privacy of residents. First and foremost, UIDAI only captures basic demographic data and no other details related to entitlements/services availed by Aadhaar holder. Independent service delivery databases are envisaged to contain Aadhaar to clean up their databases. Departments may use Aadhaar as identifier in their databases to ensure a single resident does not misuse the system and wrongly avail multiple services from the government. For example, if a resident avails both kerosene subsidy and LPG subsidy, only one entitlement could be retained. Similarly, if someone avails scholarship under two different schemes – say under minority scholarship programme and under merit-cum-means scholarship programme – requisite corrective action may be taken. However, this choice and implementation is that of individual departments and not UIDAI.

It may also be noted that we live in a country where a large percentage of population does not have access to very basic amenities. If a system can be designed to ensure targeted delivery of government programmes to such excluded section, it should not be killed in the name of lack of digital privacy. Instead, adequate provisions may be made through legislative and technological means to ensure data privacy. 

In the same breath, it may also be considered that we live in a world of social media, prevalence of which is only deepening with every passing day. Anyone interested in finding where you are, who are the people you connect with, what news articles you read and your opinion about various political parties and government programmes, your brand preferences etc., only needs to run a social media analytics tool. We all seem fine with all our personal choices and views being there in social media space but we are wary of our own government having our basic data and using that to streamline the services that we claim entitlement to!

One of the oft heard criticisms of Aadhaar in initial days was falsification of data by applicants. This criticism has really no basis as Aadhaar is generated only on the basis biometrics, all demographic data collected is incidental and only to communicate the Aadhaar to the resident. If I get enrolled by some other name, I assume that identity for life time. There is really no incentive for anyone to give false information to Aadhaar as it is a self-cleansing system.

Having said this, one of the key challenges that UIDAI today faces is with regard to channels and ease of updating data in the system. Aadhaar being a unique lifetime number requires the information contained in the central database at CIDR to be regularly updated. Corresponding to changes in a resident’s life events, movement to newer locations etc., demographic data such as resident’s name, address etc. are expected to change through the course of time. The biometric information may also require updates with life progression, such as children completing 5/15 years of age, changes in appearance due to age progression, wearing off of fingerprints etc.

Like all other aspects, for data updates too UIDAI is striving to balance between resident convenience and necessary measures to minimise possible abuse of the system. It has taken longer for UIDAI to ensure large number of interfaces for data updates and UIDAI has been trying to build a system that protects interests of both the residents and the service delivery agencies relying on the data available in CIDR. However, assuming even 10 per cent of Aadhaar require data updates (including addition of mobile numbers) in the first wave, a run rate of one lakh updates a day will take two years to capture these changes. Therefore, it is critical that UIDAI opens up multiple interfaces and incentivises the ecosystem to enable faster and accurate data updates. The goal here also has to be a million updates a day!

Conclusion

Aadhaar, which is an online digital cradle-to-grave identity and facilitates ‘anytime, anywhere, anyhow’ authentication of individuals can be truly transformational. It enables people to establish their identity and allows for the correct targeting of beneficiaries and curtailing of leakages. A focus area of the Digital India programme is to provide a “cradle to grave digital identity - unique, lifelong, online and authenticable”. It is thus evident that Aadhaar is the key to a successful Digital India. 

Once the Digital India programme is implemented in its full spirit, Aadhaar can become the foundation or the platform to ensure ease of an individual’s access to multiple services such as free education, public distribution system and pension schemes. It may be difficult for everyone to fully envisage how wide and diverse its usage will be. However, what we can be sure of is that it will change the social and business infrastructure of this nation—affecting government–to–resident, business–to–business and business–to–consumer interactions in a revolutionary manner. Indeed, it is the foundation or Aadhaar for realising the vision of Digital India.

References:

  1. http://www.npci.org.in/documents Aadhar_Mapper_Status_as_on_4March2015.pdf
  2. http://www.npci.org.in/apbs_Analytics_2014_15.aspx
  3. http://www.bcgindia.com/documents/file157155.pdf
  4. A cost-benefit analysis of Aadhaar, National Institute of Public Finance and Pollicy, November 2012, available at http://planningcommission.nic.in/reports/genrep/rep_uid_cba_paper.pdf
  5. UNDP 2013. Assessing the Impact of the MGNREGS-Aadhaar Pilot in Jharkhand: Integrating the Pilot in Other States in India.
  6. The study by University of California economists Karthik Muralidharan and Paul Niehaus and Dartmouth College economist Sandip Sukhtankar, is based on a large-scale experiment conducted by the author in collaboration with the state government involving the randomised rollout of a smartcard-enabled payment system for pensions and the rural jobs guarantee scheme across 158 sub-districts of the state and involving 19 million people. See http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/NV0Ykr21hoaJxTfyUXwBGK/Why-India-needs-Aadhaar.html?utm_source=copy

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of INCLUSION. Comments are welcome at info@skoch.in)

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