Social and Financial Inclusion: Aadhaar’s Approach to Identification

Social and Financial Inclusion: Aadhaar’s Approach to Identification In 2009, through the leadership of India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Planning Commission of India established the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The former Chairman of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani, was appointed to lead UIDAI. Its objective was to establish a single, nationally recognized means of identification for all of India’s residents (Das, Maitra, & Bagchi, 2011; UIDAI, 2014). Aadhaar was developed and implemented as a method for addressing the significant problem of introducing more residents of India into the formal economy, provide greater access to benefits, ensure fair elections, and to prevent further corruption and malfeasance (Greenleaf, 2010; Mathew, 2014; Sathe, 2011; Sharma, 2011; UIDAI, 2014). 
After a great deal of consideration, Nilekani and his team determined that to ensure uniqueness and to prevent fraud, biometric technology would play a central role in the system. The technological and institutional infrastructure of Aadhaar had to be able to eliminate any duplication efforts or fake identities that were well known to impede the current system. The process of addressing major social issues in today’s interconnected, complex, and technology-driven world requires the collaboration and cooperation of multiple organizations. 

In order to successfully reach the ambitious objectives of Aadhaar, the project was designed as a collaborative partnership between public and private sector organizations (Klitgaard, 2011; Sathe, 2011). Regardless of how innovative and influential a single organization or government agency might be, the project’s immense size calls for an approach that could draw upon the resources and talents of a range of organizations. Through collaboration across organizations, the Aadhaar project is designed to leverage both public and private sector resources through the development of sustainable and cost-effective networks. The partnership enables the various stakeholders to meet the technical, regulatory, and legal obligations of the project. Through a collaborative network of public and private partners, UIDAI began issuing unique Aadhaar identification numbers in September 2010 with the goal of covering 600 million residents by 2014 (Khanna & Raina, 2012). 

Enrollment Procedure and Protocol 

Enrollment occurs through duly designated third-party enrollment agencies. To become an official enrollment agency, an organization is required to go through proper training and testing on procedures and use of the enrollment kit. Each kit is packed into a briefcase and includes the following: a laptop, the enrollment software, fingerprint reader, iris scanner, webcam, laser printer, and monitor (Khanna & Raina, 2012). Participation in Aadhaar is voluntary for all residents. To enroll, residents can go to any authorized enrollment agency, complete an Aadhaar application form, and present current identification documents. If an enrollee does not have identification documents, they can still enroll with the help of an “introducer” – a person whose identity has already been verified. The “introducer” vouches for the enrollee, sidestepping the requirements for identification documents (Sathe, 2011; Sharma, 2011). The enrollee will then have their biometric data recorded and is entered into the database.  

The assigned Aadhaar number for an individual is connected to all biometric data collected during the enrollment process. A trained enrollment center employee photographs the enrollee, records the iris scans of the eyes, collects demographic information, and takes imprints of all 10 fingers. The demographic information includes the name, address, date of birth, and gender of the individual (Sathe, 2011; Sharma, 2011). Multiple biometric data are recorded in order to enable the inclusion of all residents in India. Fingerprints, for example, can be worn away by physical labor. Since many of the poor residents of India have occupations that require heavy physical labor, a fingerprints-only identification scheme would continue to disenfranchise many of them. 

Each enrollee’s data is then uploaded to the Central Identification Data Repository (CIDR) for de-duplication. The term “de-duplication” refers to the process where the CIDR checks to determine whether or not the biometric data submitted already exists in the database. If no equivalent record exists, then a unique, randomly generated 12-digit number will be mailed to the enrollee (Mathew, 2014; Sharma, 2011). The unique identification number provides residents with the ability to clearly establish their identity when obtaining goods or services from any public or private organization. Figure 1 provides the progress of Aadhaar, the most current cumulative Aadhaar enrollment numbers, and the enrollment numbers from July 2013 through June 2014 (UIDAI, 2014). As of June 2014, there were a total of 638,355,285 residents that enrolled for an Aadhaar unique identification number. 

Table 2 provides the specific enrollment percentage rates of male, female, and transgender residents that have registered for Aadhaar.
Figure 1: Total Aadhaar Enrollments from July 2013 through June 2014 and Total Cumulative Enrollments. Adapted from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), 2014. Retrieved from  

Table 2: Aadhaar Enrollments of Male, Female, and Transgender Residents
Note: The data are adapted from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), 2014. Retrieved from

Continue Reading... Aadhaar Project History

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