The Indian Prime Minister launched Aadhaar enabled service delivery platform, on Saturday,  enabling citizens to use the Aadhaar identity platform to identify and authenticate themselves for delivery of benefits/services by various government or private agencies. Following the move, the Indian government will roll out Aadhaar Enabled Service Delivery initiatives in 51 districts across the country, and these services will be linked to various government schemes such as MNREGA(Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) wage payments, PDS distribution, payment of social security benefits such as old-age payments, distribution of LPG cylinders, among others. According to a statement from the government, a number of state governments are already ready to roll out these initiatives. The government also announced that currently 23 crore residents have enrolled for an Aadhaar number, while 21 crore Aadhaar numbers have been issued, in a span of two years.

State governments and agencies have been conducting pilots for selected services through Aadhaar. Banks are already accepting Aadhar number as a valid KYC (Know your Customer) document. Private entities including DTH operator Dish TV, and mobile operator, Vodafone are also accepting Aadhaar for customer verification. According to a Hindu BusinessLine report, Airtel is also keen to start a similar project in Delhi, and that the Department of Telecommunication is studying whether Aadhaar can be used for address verification for mobile connections.

Launch of Aadhaar e-KYC powered prepaid cards: Speaking at the #NAMA conference, Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of UIDAI, had recently announced the launch of Aadhar E-KYC powered instant prepaid accounts, for which a pilot project was to be conducted in New Delhi. He had also stated that UIDAI had partnered with 20 banks, and had tied-up with the NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) and Visa for payments powered by Aadhaar enabled E-KYC  (Electronic- Know Your Customer). The Aadhaar powered E-KYC (Electronic- Know Your Customer), utilises the E-KYC APIs, to allow citizens to avail different services without carrying any physical identification proof. To conduct an E-KYC check, an E-KYC request, along with Aadhaar number and authentication is sent as an input and the name, address, date of birth, gender, and photograph, is received by the agency.

Need for a robust system: While Aadhaar/UID is still voluntary, with the government encouraging enrollment and implementing Aadhaar based verification and service delivery across the board, the UIDAI’s dream of UID becoming the sole citizen identification document is closer to getting realised.  The government says that integrating Aadhaar would allow agencies to ensure better compliance management to reduce leakages and increased efficiency and accountability in service delivery. However, there have been several instances of fake Aadhaar numbers being generated till now. Nilekani had admitted that like every complex deployment, even Aadhaar had faced initial teething problems. But we feel that there’s a need to ensure that the system is made more robust, before implementing it at a large scale.