A few million rural residents have already had their fingerprints and irises scanned and their photos taken as part of a government program to provide biometric IDs for all Indians. When finished, India will have the largest biometric ID database in the world. About 500 million people there currently have no form of reliable identification, which is something the Indian government has set out to fix with the five-year, $430m Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) project. It started six months ago after a core group of Indian expats with Silicon Valley start-up experience first working on the problem as unpaid volunteers.
What’s the Big Idea?
Well this is not just about convenience for those who lack identification. India has many poverty aid programs but it’s near impossible to ensure the money reaches the truly needy. The ID project is meant to cut down on fraud as well as increase access to banking and the formal economy, which many Indians currently lack. Similar programs have been tried before and failed, including in India. In the U.K., a universal ID program was shelved due to cost and privacy concerns. Will this new move offer tangible benefits to the average Indian citizen?
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