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Aadhaar biometrics considered for expansion toward non-banking financial firms

Milestone of 6.5 million face authentication transactions reached
Aadhaar biometrics considered for expansion toward non-banking financial firms

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is considering onboarding several nonbank financial companies (NBFCs) to authenticate users online via Aadhaar biometrics.

The news, reported by BL, was unveiled by UIDAI CEO Saurabh Garg on Wednesday at the FICCI Annual Capital Markets Conference.

“I think a lot more activity and a lot more entities would be able to do the eKYC even through the online mechanism,” Garg said at the event.

In fact, the executive confirmed UIDAI has already been in contact with 200 or 300 entities regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or working with the Home-Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).

At the same time, Garg said there are thousands of more NBFCs that could contribute to the Aadhaar biometrics infrastructure.

“We have more than 9,000 NBFCs who are regulated by SEBI or RBI or working with PFRDA. I think that the real opportunity going forward is how each one of those agencies can utilize the strength of Aadhaar for doing the eKYC using the Aadhaar platform,” he said at the event.

At the moment, the executive explained, several agencies cannot become certified because of the Aadhaar Act, which according to Garg, focuses more on the transfer of services from the central government or the state governments (and not enough on helping Aadhaar expansion to NBFCs).

The executive is optimistic, however. At the event, he said UIDAI had worked consistently in the last year on initiatives that he thinks will be of interest to the corporate sector, and one of them is the offline verification services.

“The offline verification is in the nature of a direct relationship between the resident and the corporate who’s performing that particular function,” Garg explained.

On the other hand, the UIDAI executive reminded the FICCI conference audience that the Authority already has roughly 1,000 schemes.

“We are working with state governments and the central government to look at whether all beneficiary-oriented schemes or even going to a group of beneficiaries, for example, a family or a self-help group, can be brought on the Aadhaar digital platform.”

The claims come roughly a month after UIDAI announced intentions to undertake a new awareness-raising campaign intended to underline for businesses the uses and benefits of the Aadhaar biometric ID for the poor.

Garg also claimed that the Aadhaar system has effectively met United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 for universal identification.

On the other side of the spectrum, Aadhaar critic and Yoti Fellowship alumnus Subhashish Panigrahi recently discussed the negative impact of Aadhaar on inclusion in India in the fifth episode of the ID16.9 podcast.

Aadhaar face biometrics authentication 6.5 million transactions

Despite the opinions’ of critics, however, Aadhaar adoption continues to grow in India, with UIDAI reporting a milestone of almost 6.5 million face-authenticated transactions earlier this week.

The announcement was reported by the Hindustan Times, which said the transactions included various government schemes – including availing rations through the public distribution system (PDS) – and the verification of payments.

The biometric technology works by matching the photograph present in a person’s Aadhaar card with the person presenting their identity for a given government service. If the match is positive, the authentication is completed and the service granted.

According to UIDAI officials, however, fingerprint recognition still accounts for the vast majority of Aadhaar-based transactions, despite the system supporting face and also iris biometrics. 

“We expect this to change in the future,” a UIDAI official told Hindustan Times. “That way, there can be a two factor authentication, not only [finger] biometric but also facial authentication,” the official said. “Even with biometrics, we are taking extra precautions to avoid frauds.”

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