What Happens When a Billion Identities Are Digitized?
By Ted O’Callahan
In 2009, India had no nationally recognized form of identification. Indians carried separate ID cards relating to various government functions—taxes, subsidized food, cooking gas, water—but none served as an all-purpose identification throughout the country. And often what ID systems did exist were so systemically tainted that half of names on the rolls were fakes, while the neediest, the very people social programs were designed to help, were excluded because they couldn’t pay the required bribes.
Today, more than 1.2 billion Indians have what Paul Romer, a Nobel laureate and former World Bank chief economist, has described as “the most sophisticated ID program in the world.” The program, called Aadhaar, provides each individual with a biometrically secured, 12-digit identification number. Aadhaar represents a remarkable feat of policy, design, technology, and real-world implementation.
Photo courtesy of juicyrai.