Finally, after 7 years Aadhaar has got legal backing in form of Aadhaar Bill, 2016. Aadhaar, the brain child of previous Indian government is being implemented by UIDAI, and is considered to be the world’s largest national identification number project, which already covers more than 95% of Indian population.
Main focus of this project and the bill is to provide direct delivery of financial and other subsidies, but if allowed within the legal criteria as laid out by the bill, Aadhaar can help solve many challenges faced by citizens on daily basis. Such challenges can be more efficiently solved if provided by a startup in form of business to government (B2G).
How Aadhaar Works:
The technology behind Aadhaar isn’t new, it works as an authentication tool which when queried, provides a “yes or no”. For this to work, all one has to do is walk into an enrollment center and submit details like digital photo, name, address, date of birth and biometrics. Based on the details provided, an individual’s Aadhaar number is generated and is securely stored using encryption at UIDAI’s Central ldentities Data Repository (CIDR).
How Aadhaar Can Be Used:
Aadhaar provides access to the database to approved authorities in form of API Architecture. Using APIs, a system at the client side can query the CIDR by providing either the Adhaar number or any one of the biometrics. Example usage of such eKYC is being tested at the Bangalore’s aiport.
Nowdays, most of the web based products used by software companies rely heavily on API architecture and Aadhaar also allows access using APIs only. This provides an opportunity to startups to come up with products and solutions that can leverage Aadhaar’s API infrastructure to simplify authentication in order to provide faster services from government to the citizens.
What Type of Solutions Startups Can Provide:
The list in endless.
On day to day basis in India, citizens across country have to juggle from office to office to prove their identity and have to carry lot of paper documents. With Aadhaar, this KYC can be simplified if at the counter of any government office like RTO, there is a terminal allowing visitors to submit biometric, which is then encrypted and sent over the network to CIDR for authentication in form of “yes or no”, or to fetch the details that show digital image, address and other allowed information within the legal framework to the officer verifying these details. What this process does is first to authenticate the user in the fastest manner possible and since Aadhaar is being provided based on the physical documents shown while enrolling with UIDAI, by default this eliminates the need to cross check further details.
Aadhaar can also act as an enabler for creating credit information of an individual. Currently, this is handled by CIBIL and as mentioned in the speech by Dr. K.C. Chakrabarty on, “Transforming Credit Information into Action: Issues and Challenges“, he identifies the challenge of electronic identification:
As banks in India have inadequate electronic data capture systems and inadequate networking facilities, problems encountered in data-collection may be magnified multi-fold.
This is the exact problem which is being solved by Aadhaar system, and this can eventually allow startups to provide financial products that can help create, manage and monitor credit history by making sure that all the data related to credit history is being captured by a single system. Yes, currently CIBIL has this job to do, but CIBIL only acts as a credit information bureau which lacks innovative products, and startups can surely pitch solutions that provide detailed credit reporting and monitoring by using Aadhaar as its pillar.
Having a single repository of more than 1 Billion people can be a difficult task to handle, and this is where big data technology can be applied to provide government with tailored products to tap details around taxes, eliminating frauds, monitoring government schemes, aggregating details like PAN, Voter, Driving License, educational details and other official documents under a single roof.
Will Aadhaar Based Products By Startups Violate Security and Privacy:
In terms of security, I don’t see any flaw as utmost care is being taken to safeguard all the information collected, and the only information that is worth protecting is biometrics, as other details like name, date of birth, address etc are freely flowing around the internet and are easily accessible. When it comes to biometrics, such details have already been provided to many non-government authorities like NASSCOM and all those countries that ask individuals to furnish biometric before VISA appointment.
If one is concerned about privacy, then please stop using internet, as that is one network that knows much more about you than anyone else. Search engines know what your personal details are, where you go based on location, what you like based on reviews and many more such things. So, saying that Aadhaar will act as privacy and surveillance tool is not the best argument.
How Can Startups Pitch Products Based on Aadhaar:
First task should be to get in touch with UIDAI and understand in detail how the APIs can be accessed and used. Then, within the legal framework pitch products that promote Startup India, such that it’s in line with Make In India and in the process helps Digital India campaign.