Six things to know about India’s Aadhaar biometric program

July 25, 2012 - 

Since the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) program started in 2010, it has raised a lot of questions and sparked debates.

The center of discussions focuses on the 12-digit card number called “Aadhaar” and how billions of India’s citizens will benefit from it.  The UIDAI program is set to end in 2013.  So many expectations are riding on it, such as, curbing corruption, along with better and faster distribution of benefits to India’s poor.

After all the hype, the Economic Times ran an article about the most frequently asked questions concerning UID.

The questions covered the following items: an individual’s right to privacy, children’s authentication, biometrics for the “differently-abled” persons, Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts, and micro-ATMs in Aadhaar system.

In summary, Aadhaar authentication is a process through which the 12-digit number, along with other attributes such as demographics and biometrics are submitted to UIDAI’s Central Identities Data Repository for verification.  Service providers such as banks, the Public Distribution System and National Rural Employment Guarantee will be linked to the Aadhaar system.  Residents need to authenticate either at the time of subscribing to the service or during service delivery.

The UID of children below five years old will be processed on the basis of demographic information and photograph linked with their parents’ UID.  They need to re-enroll and have their biometrics taken once they reach five years old and have that data updated when they turn 15.

“Differently-abled” people will not be excluded and those without hands or finger will have their marked photos for authentication.

Residents can link their existing bank account to Aadhaar as disbursements will only be through Aadhaar-enabled accounts.   The individual can use a low-cost, micro-ATM network, which will have large geographical reach.

Micro-ATMs are biometric authentication enabled, hand-held device known as “point of transaction” terminals.  These will be operated by businesses appointed by bank and will be capable of the following functions: cash withdrawal, cash deposit, balance enquiry and remittances.  Physical currency will be handled by the businesses and not by ATMs.  All transactions will require online biometric authentication with the UIDAI’s authentication server in order to be processed.

What is your impression of India’s Aadhaar system? Is it simple or complicated?  Do you think India’s poor will benefit from it?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.