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One billion Indians to get biometric ID cards

Karl Flinders

The Indian government plans to give all of its 1.2 billion citizens biometric ID cards, and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani will lead the project.

The project team will face a huge challenge in securing the information stored, which will be a target for hackers. But unlike the UK, the general population are likely to accept the cards.

The project is going to cost an estimated £3bn. The UK ID cards scheme was expected to cost £5.3bn and the UK government has now abandoned its plan to make ID cards compulsory. There was lot of opposition to the scheme in the UK.

Nandan Nilekani, who left Infosys to lead the project, has described it as a "humongous, mind-boggling challenge", according to The Telegraph.

Infosys said it accepts Nilekani's decision to leave with "a sense of duty to a larger cause, but with deep sadness".

The ID scheme is an attempt to fight corruption and could identify illegal immigrants and tackle terrorism.

Each card will contain personal data and proof of identity, such as fingerprint or iris scans. It will be linked to a central database.

Kris Lakshmikanth, managing director at Indian recruitment firm Headhunters, said it will take a decade to do this. He doubts the project will get the same level of opposition as the UK scheme because the general population are not aware of the privacy risks.

But he is concerned about the security. "I am sure hackers will hack into the database," he said.

Pradipta Bagchi, head of communications at Indian IT supplier TCS, said the biggest challenge will not be IT but getting all the states and government departments involved to agree.

He said it is an ambitious IT project. "India is a massive country and a lot of it is rural. It also has a lot of different types of ID in circulation."

Bagchi said he is not concerned about having to carry an ID card. "Security will be an issue, but in India we have not seen too many incidents of data getting lost."

NR Narayana Murthy, chairman at Infosys, said, "We are glad that an extraordinary individual like Nandan has got an opportunity to add value to India through this position. As a company that has always put the interest of the society ahead of itself, Infosys will accept his absence with a sense of duty to a larger cause, but with deep sadness at the departure of one of her most illustrious sons. We, the Infoscions, wish him the best in his new assignment."


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