Nilekani is set to give Indians an identity
Packed into what look like two medium-sized suitcases are eight essentials -- an iris scanner, a fingerprint machine, a camera, a laptop, a computer screen linked to the laptop, an Internet data card, a pen drive and a printer
Armed with kits like these, Nandan Nilekani and his team at the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will kickstart one of the most ambitious exercises in recent times -- distribution of unique identification numbers to India's 1.2 billion people.
And they hope to roll this out as early as the first week of September, in cities, towns and villages of Andhra Pradesh, the state chosen for the launch of this unique exercise.
Unlike in the Census that's already on, there will be no paper-wielding government employees knocking at doors. Instead, enrolment officials, who are almost certainly not going to be government employees, will set up stations in different parts of Andhra Pradesh and turn to their kits.
The laptop contains a bilingual software (English and the local language) that runs the whole ID process. The software links to the iris machine, fingerprint machine and the camera, recording biometric data and a photograph. The second computer screen is purely for the client who, in the interest of complete transparency, can watch exactly what is being recorded.
The software contains a transliteration device so that data entries like names and addresses need be typed in only one language. There is automatic translation to the other language. That translation can be manually overridden if there is a problem, with spelling for example. Eventually, the data will be transmitted to the UIDAI database via the Internet where there will be a de-duplication process after which an unique ID number will be issued. The client will get a printout of the details at the end of the process.
Well aware of possible glitches, technical and human, Nilekani is non-committal on a precise date for the rollout. But the people of Andhra Pradesh may have their first contact early next month.
Given the country's IT expertise, should such a project have been conceived many years ago? "Not really. The availability of this technology at an affordable price is a relatively recent phenomenon. In that sense, the timing is perfect," Nilekani told The Sunday Express.
But just having the right technology is not sufficient to roll out a project on this scale. "What we need to do is create an appropriate ecosystem," said Nilekani. In short, getting the incentives right for all those involved in the project.
According to Nilekani, a four-tier structure will govern the actual handing out of UID numbers. At the Centre, the UIDAI will be responsible for coordinating the whole exercise. It will certify technology used across the country, and will hand out numbers from its centralised database. Operationally, state governments will take charge and, therefore, have ownership of the project on the ground.
The state governments will work with authorised registrars (agencies of the state government or banks or even insurance companies) who actually need the UID data for a particular purpose. At level four will be the enrolment agencies (can be either privately or publicly owned) that will collect the data. Currently, the UIDAI has empanelled 220 enrolment agencies across the country.
Source: Indian Express and MSN