UIDAI chairman says Aadhaar helped government save $9B

Nandan Nilekani, the first chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said that the Aadhaar Card system helped save India $9 billion by curbing cases of misuse of beneficiary welfare schemes, according to a report by Little India.

“By having a unique number, you eliminate fakes and duplicates from your beneficiary and employee lists. That alone has saved the government $9 billion,” Nilekani said at a World Bank panel discussion on “Digital Economy for Development” in Washington.

“It has really been a bipartisan thing. I was given a mandate by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on how to give everyone in India a unique digital ID .We have 1.18 billion in the system we have built with an architecture that could enroll 1.5 million people a day at 35,000 stations across the country.

“We also have half a billion people who have connected their (Aadhaar) ID to their bank accounts. The government has transferred about $12 billion to their accounts electronically real time, which is the world’s largest cash transfer system in real-time.”

Nilekani said that India is the only country in the world where a billion people conduct paperless, cashless transactions on their smartphones using the Aadhaar infrastructure, and that that further reducing transaction cost would result in greater numbers.

He also emphasized that the perception of what is digital infrastructure has to change from viewing it simply as a method of providing communication and internet to the new world of data economy, identity, authentication, frictionless payments and paperless transactions — a feat he argued that India has successfully achieved.

In addressing the Supreme Court ruling upholding individual privacy as a fundamental right, Nilekani said that the top court also implemented the foundation for the government to skirt this issue for achieving state objectives of national security, prevention of crime, protection of revenue or for social welfare.

“The Supreme Court, however, said every time you circumscribe some privacies, there has be a certain law, it needs to be reasonable. It’s a brilliantly drafted judgement,” he said.

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