.Nilekani: Unique Identification number will benefit the poor

NEW DELHI: The recently constituted Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) headed by Nandan Nilekani, former co-Chairman of the IT major Infosys, would aim at devising a system through which the identity of a person could be established through just a call from a mobile phone.

Explaining the project at a lecture here, Mr. Nilekani said that since its objective was to help the poor in particular to access the benefits of various government schemes with greater ease, the aim was to develop a system whereby the identity of a person could be established through just a call from a mobile phone.

“If any agency wants to confirm the identify of a person, it would have to just take the fingerprint of the person on a cell phone and send it across to a central database and receive authentication within seconds.”

Instead of a card, the UIDA would only provide a number to every citizen linked to a person’s demographic and biometric information. At the time of the issue of the number, the Authority would seek certain basic information such as the name, date of birth, place of birth, gender, and the address of the individuals and take their photograph and fingerprints.

The database would be developed in partnership with the government and private agencies, such as mobile service providers, cooking gas outlets, passport offices, NREGA and PDS authorities. “The moment a person comes in contact with any of the partner agencies, their details would be collected and the unique identification number would be issued. Once a person gets the number, he or she would have to just quote it on approaching another service provider.”

The aim of the project was to be provide a robust system to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, apart from verification and authentication of the identity in an easy manner, Mr. Nilekani said. The system would be developed in such a way that whenever a partner agency sends the data of an individual for registration, the central database would perform a search on key demographic and biometric attributes so that there was no duplication.

Noting that the present situation of multiple databases gave individuals “an incentive” to provide different personal information to different agencies, he said that since the mechanism for de-duplication in the UID system would ensure that the residents would have only one chance to be in the database, the individuals would provide accurate data. “The incentives for giving correct information would become especially powerful as benefits and entitlements would be linked to UID.”

Giving the lecture at the 67th foundation day celebrations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Mr. Nilekani said the UIDAI planned to start issuing the identification numbers in 12 to 18 months and cover 600 million citizens over the next four years.

While the largest such database currently available anywhere in the world covered only 120 million people, the one being set up in India would cover 10 times more than that figure, he said. “It is certainly a gigantic task with several technological challenges. But, we will do it.”

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