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Developing countries demonstrate interest in Aadhaar model


According to a recent article published by the Economic Times, the World Bank has approached the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to share its experiences on the implementation of India’s Aadhaar biometric identification scheme with other developing countries.

The paper stated that Nigeria was the first country to send a team to India under the World Bank umbrella to study the Aadhaar model. The Economic Times also reported that UIDAI chief executive Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that another team from Tanzania is also expected to study the system this month.

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. Currently, Aadhaar has issued over 900 million Aadhaar numbers, and has enrolled approximately 850 million people, with a goal of ultimately enrolling 1.28 billion people.

The program, governed by 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.

Due to the robustness of the system, India’s federal government continues to extend the use of the system to other social programs and to make Aadhaar the country’s primary national identity scheme. The fast expansion of the biometric-based system has generated a tremendous amount of interest from countries in Africa and Asia, that only have elemental citizen databases constituted of paper-based register records.

According to unnamed sources in India’s government, such “countries are eager to know how a 104 crore (1.04 billion)-strong biometric database was built and will be used for determining identity.”

The government sources noted that both Nigeria and Tanzania will learn about the system under the aegis of the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative.

The initiative was launched to assist developing countries achieve the goal of providing legal identity to all their citizens.The initiative is also designed to ensure that civil identification systems are interoperable with social and other programs and to facilitate citizens’ access to economic opportunities including access to employment and finance.

The deployment of systems comparable to Aadhaar would assist these countries in providing identity and social services to all their citizens. According to World Bank statistics, an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide do not have an official, government-issued and recognized document as a proof of their legal identity.

Government sources noted that while the African officials will learn about the robustness of the Aadhaar systems, they will not learn about any of the security elements of the scheme.

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