According to Satya Nadella, “Aadhaar now has scaled to over one billion people, rivaling the growth of other platform innovations such as Windows, Android or Facebook.” What has brought technology closer to people’s lives is the lesser known IndiaStack launched in 2016.
What is Aadhaar?
Launched in 2009, Aadhaar is a biometric database based on a 12-digit digital identity that is authenticated by fingerprints and retina scans. As per the Indian Government, more than 1.11 billion people of 1.3 billion citizens, amounting to 99%, have an Aadhaar identity.
According to Olivier Garrett, writer on Forbes, 270 million bank accounts have been opened in India since the launch of Aadhaar. More, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization drive helped recapitalize India’s banks. Since demonetization, over $80 billion has flowed into the banking system.
A few chinks in the armour of Aadhaar
Despite the massive success of Aadhaar initiative, the database is not foolproof. Several fake entries were made in it as it was not subject to any audit. Because of the vulnerability, ludicrously, even animals have had an Aadhaar identity. The loopholes create opportunities for money launderers even as Aadhaar addresses the leakages in subsidies to the needy.
According to Member of Parliament, Tathagata Satpathy, the sheer scope of Aadhaar identity puts so much power in the Government’s hands that it could be abused by way of conducting mass surveillance and ethnic cleansing.
What is IndiaStack?
The scope of Aadhaar is further enhanced by the digital initiative of the Government, IndiaStack. Created by UIDAI, IndiaStack is a set of APIs that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilise an unique digital Infrastructure to solve India’s hard problems towards presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery. With Aadhaar at its heart, IndiaStack enables people to store and share personal data such as addresses, bank statements etc.
IndiaStack provides 4 distinct technology layers :
Presenceless layer: Where a biometric digital identity allows people to avail any service from anywhere in the country.
Paperless layer: Where digital records move with an individual’s digital identity, eliminating the need for paper collection and storage.
Cashless layer: Where there’s a single interface to all the country’s bank accounts and wallets.
Consent layer: Where data moves freely and securely.
How does IndiaStack affect India ?
IndiaStack brings millions of Indians into the formal economy. It fosters an IT ecosystem that builds products for financial Inclusion, healthcare & educational services at scale. Further, it fundamentally changes the way government services are delivered, leading to a transparent, accountable and leakage free model of service delivery.
A few milestones achieved by IndiaStack over the years:
It started with the launch of UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) in 2009 with the objective of issuing Unique Identification numbers (UID), named as “Aadhaar”.
In 2012, UIDAI launched eKYC which allows businesses to undertake Know Your Customer verification process digitally using Biometric or Mobile OTP.
In 2015, MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) launches DigiLocker, a platform that issues and verifies documents & certificates digitally, thus eliminating the use of physical documents.
In 2016, NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) launches UPI (Unified Payments Interface), a public payments system to revolutionise digital payments in India.
It is clear that there is a strong political will behind these initiatives by successive Governments. However, the vulnerabilities of Aadhar must be immediately addressed if it has to emerge as something equivalent to social security number in the United States. For IndiaStack to be successful, what lies at its heart, Aadhaar, must be as foolproof as possible.