The poor are nameless, faceless, and therefore, powerless. Throughout history, the act of naming is linked to power. In 2010, the poor of India were named. Aadhaar is a unique 12 digit identification number that can used to get social benefits from the Central Government and the State Government by Indian citizens.
Most importantly, perhaps, direct cash benefits are supported. The ability of the poor to withdraw their direct cash not only empowers them, but also minimizes corruption-based leakages of entitlements from the system. Moreover, the delays in receiving the money they are entitled to will also be reduced through the use of micro ATMs. A micro ATM is basically a mobile phone with a fingerprint device for real time authentication.
“The beneficiary has to put his finger and Aadhaar number in to the micro ATM wireless device and get the money within 8 to 9 seconds from a business correspondent after verification about the beneficiary having that much amount deposited in the bank account shown through a receipt by the device,” UIADI Director-General, Mr. R. S. Sharma, said in an interview with The Hindu
Mr. Ram Sewak Sharma, who is the Director General of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIADI), is a key driver of the identification process. He is more than familiar with technology, being a graduate of the premier technical institute of India, IIT. This has led to a number of tech savvy features being built into Aadhaar.
One is account level portability, which essentially means that the system does not break if the Aadhaar user changes banks. Another is the interoperable architecture of the business correspondent network and the micro ATMs. Multiple distribution channels that are interoperable increase options for service delivery to citizens.
Basically you create multiple distribution channels based on interoperability (through Aadhaar) so that people have options - whether they should transact with one particular BC or any another BC - Governance Now
It is also interesting that the Government is capturing meta-data and will be using it to improve their own processes.
Finally, the most exciting news for the open data community may be that following up on India’s national data sharing policy of last year, anonymized data is being made available in the public domain in a machine readable format. Even better, perhaps, would be if the Government also provided an API to work with this data.
Photo credit: flickr user benoit.crouzet