The Indian government is set to issue its first unique identification numbers, called Aadhaar numbers: according to a communique from the government, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the Chairman of the ruling coalition (UPA), will distribute the first set of numbers among villagers in the Nandurbar District of Maharashtra. Once completed, India will be the first country to implement a biometric-based unique ID system for its residents on a national scale.

A few days ago, the Union Cabinet of the Government of India had approved the Introduction of National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in Parliament, thus initiating the process by which it will become law.

India’s Unique ID is expected to address a key issue of financial inclusion and efficiency in distribution of government spends among the poor, by addressing the lack of Know Your Customer (KYC) norms.

For Mobile & Banking Industries: Lowering Of KYC Costs

From a digital industry perspective, KYC is a cost currently borne by telecom operators and banks, and is seen by companies like Nokia as a key impediment to the rollout of mobile payments. With the Unique ID rollout, and expected spends of Rs. 3023.01 crore is being spent until March 2011, the government is taking the cost of KYC upon itself, thus clearing the way for digital and biometric (fingerprints and Iris) authentication as a ubiquitous, real-time and low cost means of verifying identities before offering services to consumers. This will, it is claimed, help eliminate duplicate, ghost and fake identities across various government schemes, and help reduce corruption.

With the Aadhaar number, residents will be able to easily fulfill the Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements of banks, verify their identity both in person and via mobile, thus enabling mobile and branchless banking. To this end, the RBI has also initiated the rollout of the banking correspondents model, allowing even grocers to operate as bank representatives.

There are challenges, of course, with biometric authentication.

Download:

– Draft National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 here
– Aadhaar authentication API specifications. (pdf)
– Aadhaar biometric APIs

UIDAI:
– UIDAI Strategy Overview (pdf)
– The Demographic Data Standards and verification procedure Committee Report (pdf)
– The Biometrics Standards Committee Report (pdf)
– From Exclusion to Inclusion with Micropayments (pdf)
– AADHAAR-Communicating to a billion : An Awareness and Communication (pdf)
– Demographic Data Standards

India’s UID

– India’s Unique ID Authority ‘Aadhaar’ Releases Authentication API; Biometric Block?
– #VASAsia: Using Voice For Unique ID / Aadhaar Authentication?
– Govindraj Ethiraj, Sanjay Swamy, Sanjay Jain Join UIDAI
– India’s Unique ID Project Will Open Its API, Needs Connectivity – Nandan Nilekani
– #UID: 12 Parameters For India’s National ID; Audit Trail; Pilot
– Indian Government Constitutes Panel For National ID Project
Linking Mobile, UID & Payments, Without Bank Accounts – R. Chandrashekhar
Budget 2010 Economic Survey: UID, Telecom, FDI, USO Fund, Prasar Bharati & e-Governance
India’s Unique ID Project Will Open Its API, Needs Connectivity – Nandan Nilekani
Smart Cards For National ID In India; Need For Single ID? Impact On Mobile Biz