At MediaNama’s #NAMA conference, Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of UIDAI, announced the launch of Aadhar E-KYC powered instant prepaid accounts, for which a pilot will be launched in Delhi, next week.Speaking about the possible applications of these instant accounts, Nilekani said that e-commerce merchants would be able to issue a co-branded bank issued prepaid card with their own branding, and the card can be activated at the time of the check-out using an OTP based authentication, and that an Aadhaar linked prepaid card could be shipped to the customer with the delivery. The customer can top-up the card through a business correspondent or online.

The same can be done at physical retailers – Citizens will be able to activate instant accounts with E-KYC, save money into the account, withdraw money, and send money to anyone with an Aadhaar number.

Aadhaar Authentication API: Elaborating on the Aadhar authentication API, Nilekani announced that it will be free until 2013, and priced as a public good later. It allows demographic verification, including name, address, PIN code among others via agent based fingerprint or iris authentication and OTP based self service authentication. He informed that the UIDAI has already done several thousand authentications.

E-KYC: The Aadhaar ecosystem will also power E-KYC (Electronic- Know Your Customer), which will utilise 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. He said that the infrastructure supports millions of daily requests. The data is only sent with the customer’s consent, he added.

The UIDAI has partnered with 20 banks, and has also tied-up with the NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) and Visa for payments powered by E-KYC. E-KYC can be deployed for customer verification for mobile connections, bank accounts, insurance, LPG connections, state government services, train travel and any service where verification is required. The ecosystem now offers 35 authenticating devices.

On Aadhaar enrolments: Nilekani informed that around 20 crore people have an aadhaar number and the UIDAI intends to enrol an additional 100 crore residents, over the next few years. He admitted that like every complex deployment faces initial teething problems.

On the government’s role in promoting tech services: Nilekani also shared some of his experiences in a candid one on one with Rajesh Sawhney, of GSF Accelerator. Talking about the government’s role in supporting technology  infrastructure, Nilekani said that the internet was built with the support and backing of government agencies, from ARPANET to Mosaic; even GPS was a part of the defence infrastructure till it opened for public 12 years ago. He was candid in admitting that it takes more patience to work in the Government sector, navigating through the complex framework. On making a small start-up a big corporate power horse, Nilekani reflected on the importance of ignoring egos and focusing on the bigger goal.