May 1, 2017 -
The man behind the creation of India’s biometric national ID system has been awarded one of this year’s Nikkei Asia Prizes.
Nandan Nilekani of India, former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, was selected the winner for economic and business innovation. Nilekani led the creation of Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric national ID system.
Aadhaar is the 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian government to every individual resident of India. The Aadhaar project aims to provide a single, unique identifier which captures all the demographic and biometric details of every Indian resident. At last count, over 1.1 billion people out of India’s population of 1.27 billion have been registered in the Aadhaar database.
The program, governed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is currently used to authenticate delivery of social services including school attendance, natural gas subsidies to India’s rural poor, and direct wage payments to bank accounts. The system also provides identification to people who do not have birth certificates.
Although the Aadhaar scheme was initially launched for the provision of social services, the Indian government has extended Aadhaar to consumer financial transactions (currently there are 400 million linked bank accounts), and to myriad other services.
The Nikkei Asia Prizes were introduced in 1996 and honor contributions to the Asia-Pacific region in three fields: economic and business innovation; science and technology; and culture and community. Experts from across the region submit nominations.