Digital India

By on 21/10/2014
India's new government has been popular at the polls - but what impact will its policies have on the public sector?

One of the most modernising programmes in India is gaining speed. The Aadhaar is a 12-digit number allocated to each Indian citizen. Take-up is voluntary and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issues the random numbers so that there is no data or information on the caste, religion or language of the recipient. The scheme is funded by government and so is free to join.

Launched in 2009, the Aadhaar programme now has the full backing of India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The unique number (UID) is then joined up with biometric details such as fingerprint or iris recognition. This data is stored by the UIDAI and used to confirm identities.

This is a different system to other identity programmes, such as that being rolled out in Pakistan. It is based more on the individual number, than on an actual identity card.

Using this unique number, an Indian citizen can then use it to, for example, obtain a passport or open a bank account. India’s population is approximately 1.2 billion and 690 million have already joined. The target for 2015 is to have 1 billion unique numbers issued.

One perhaps unimagined outcome is that the data is being used to check on civil servants’ attendance at work. A new government website, attendance.gov.in, gives extensive amounts of detail on who is in work and what time they arrived and left.

The trial, which is due to be expanded to all central government offices by the spring of 2015, requires government employees arriving and leaving work to log in and out via a fingerprint scanner. The system is called AEBAS – Aadhaar-enabled biometric attendance system. All central government employees will have their data kept on a central database which uses either the first or last six digits of the Aadhaar 12-digit identity.

The Indian government is considering rolling this out to all public sector workers such as in hospitals and employment offices. Aadhaar is already the world’s largest biometric database and looks set to expand further.

About Graham Scott

Graham is an experienced editor and publisher and an award-winning writer. He has travelled extensively and is interested in world cultures.

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