Indian government makes biometrics mandatory for e-projects

The Indian government has made biometrics a mandatory consideration for all electronic government projects.

In recently issued guidance notes for e-government implementation, consultant procurement and private/public partnerships, the central government has stated that it will encourage RFP applicant contractors to utilize biometric standards. Biometric standards include: fingerprint images, minutiae, face images and iris data.

The guidance notes further stated that open source software and APIs are also mandatory, and that proprietary software should only be used in exceptional circumstances. The new guidance notes also recommend the use of software-as-a-service for e-governance applications to promote interoperability and accessibility amongst different departments and agencies.

India runs the world’s largest biometric identification database called “Aadhaar”. The system provides basic identification to access government services. At last count, over 1.1 billion people out of India’s population of 1.27 billion have been registered. The use of biometric standards in all future e-government projects will allow both central and state governments to extend their use of the system beyond existing social services.

Although the Aadhaar scheme was initially launched for the provision of social services, including monitoring school attendance, providing natural gas subsidies to India’s rural poor, and direct wage deposits to bank accounts, the Indian government has extended the system to consumer financial transactions. The trend of the current government is to continue to extend the scheme for all interactions with citizens.

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