Indian ID project will work because it is about alleviating poverty and not privacy

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This is the second part of my interview with Anjan lahiri from Indian IT firm MindTree, when we discussed the Indian biometric ID project.

See yesterday's post, which concentrated on the technology challenges.

MindTree has just been awarded a prestigious deal to build software for part of the biometric identification scheme in India. The first contract awarded on the project.

The biometric ID card scheme in India will see all 1.3 billion Indian citizens receive an ID that authenticates their identity through biometric checks.

It is a massive project not least because of the size of India's population but also its disparateness.So its bigger than the UK scheme that failed. Why will it work?

Lahiri says it will work because it is about alleiviating poverty and not about privacy like the UK ID card scheme.

"The poor in India have a problem in that they do not have an identity," says Lahiri. This he adds prevents them from opening bank accounts. He estimates that 1 billion of India's 1.3bn people do not have bank accounts.

He said this can cause problems when, for instance, someone is given a government subsidy. A large part of it is spent on travelling to the place to pick it up and another slice is taken by corrupt officials.

But giving someone a biometric ID means a local store can be used to dish out money in the knowledge that the right person is getting because of the unique identification. "We are creating financial access for 1 billion people and reducing transaction costs.

He also says poor women are almost always known by their son's name. "Imagine how hard it is going to a bank and opening an account." 

It is benefits like this that give the Indian ID card scheme the backing it needs. Companies like MindTree are proud to be involved. "We have to make a profit but it is a very prestigious deal for us," says Lahari.

So that's why the Indian ID scheme will work. Just to remind you below are some technology facts about the project.

- The biometric ID card scheme in India will see all 1.3 billion Indian citizens receive an ID card that authenticates their identity through biometric checks.

- It will sign 600million people up over the next four years.

- It is a massive project not least because of the size of India's population but also its disparateness.

- Each person registered will have an estimated 5 megabytes of data and the datacentre that will hold the information will have 4 Terabytes of data coming into it every day during peak enrolment periods. This will be about the biggest non commercial datacenter in the world.

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May I bring the following article to Mr Flinders's attention, http://dematerialisedid.com/BCSL/Tsunami.html

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This page contains a single entry by Karl Flinders published on July 9, 2010 1:59 PM.

For how long will there be no Indian firms among top government IT suppliers? was the previous entry in this blog.

Mahindra Satyam's World cup software had no downtime and 72 hours to go is the next entry in this blog.

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