Published on Let's Talk Development

IT maven Nandan Nilekani explains Unique I.D. system to reach India's masses

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What breakthrough will involve barefoot banking for millions of people, allow welfare and other benefits to be electronically transferred to some of the poorest people in the world and be scaled up in a few years time to reach 1 billion people or more? The answer is 'Aadhaar', the Hindi name that the Unique Identification Authority of India has given to the massive project that will provide unique I.Ds to 600 million by 2014 and eventually to the entire population of the country if all goes as planned.

Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of UIDAI, spoke at the World Bank earlier this week and explained in detail why the simplicity of a unique I.D. system could provide an adaptable platform around which India's massive system for transferring social welfare, banking, pension and other services can be automated.

Aadhaar means 'foundation' or 'base' and it's an awe-inspiring endeavor that could only have been designed by the best and brightest from India's Internet Technology milieu (Nilekani was a co-founder of InfoSys and also a brilliant salesman).

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Kaushik Basu are big enthusiasts for breakthrough innovations that will deliver services more efficiently and advance progress on the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, so Aadhaar is right up their alley. They provided opening insights during Nilekani's lecture and took part alongside him in a lively question and answer session.

Watch the video here and you will never think about fingerprinting in quite the same way again.


Merrell Tuck-Primdahl

Communications Director, Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program

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