The Indian Government is in the midst of rolling out the world’s largest biometric identity project. The exercise—conceptualised and steered in its present form by Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani—targets the generation of unique biometric IDs for more than a billion Indians.
Called Aadhaar (foundation), this multi-billion dollar exercise has been projected mostly as an effort to ensure better targeting of beneficiaries for various government schemes and subsidies. Cash transfers are one example. In some pilot programmes, residents are already collecting their subsidies for cooking gas cylinders via cash transfers and paying the market price at the dealership.
But a biometric ID aka Aadhaar will have many more applications and not all are necessarily connected to cash transfers, small ticket bank transactions or bottom-of-the-pyramid initiatives. This is partly to do with the design of Aadhaar itself. The idea was to create an identity ecosystem on top of which applications could be…
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