Aadhaar project data collection: An interview with Mindtree's CEO

Get a view into the data collection efforts for the Aadhaar project from Krishnakumar Natarajan, the CEO at service provider Mindtree.

Krishnakumar Natarajan, CEO at service provider Mindtree, recently updated SearchDataCenterIN on the challenges the company faced with its recent work on the Aadhaar (UID) project, the Indian government's plan to issue all of its citizens biometric ID cards.

In 2010, Mindtree won the contract to create and supply the application that collects and stores the personal details and biometric data of more than a billion Indians as part of the Aadhaar project. Each data center stores an estimated 5 MB of data about each person registered, which adds 4 TB of new data every day during peak enrollment periods.

Mindtree provided the following for the application it developed for the Aadhaar project:

  • Solution architecture
  • Design, development and testing     
  • Build and release management
  • Participation in pilots and proof of concepts
  • Integration with partner systems, such as call centers, India post and banks
  • Application maintenance, support and help desk services

The company delivered an enrollment client, an enrollment server, an authentication module, a fraud detection module, an administration module, an analytics and reporting module and an information portal.

Mindtree completed its part of the project in January and so far about 350 million people have registered using the Mindtree application.

How has Mindtree contributed to the UID project?

Mindtree was the application, architecture and development partner for the UID project and we have completed all our application work for the program. We have transitioned support to the vendor who supports running as well as smooth operations of the application, currently HCL Infosystems.

What are the main challenges you have faced while working on the UID project?

The project was extremely complex from the architecture viewpoint. UID had on its rolls several experts brought in on an engagement basis. The experience and knowledge of those professionals helped us to architect a solution that was scalable and addressed the complexity involved in biometric iris scans as well as ensuring non-duplication of data. Beyond the applications architecture, there were local challenges while it was rolled out across the country.

How did Mindtree approach the UID project, which is aimed at radically transforming the way government executes its duties?

You are right that the UID project is aimed at transforming the way the government executes its duties. At Mindtree we are very clear that we are engaged in the project more to bring in expertise which we had. Also since this was an application of such a scale and magnitude, we were flexible and met the expectation of the customers and that consequently led to the huge success of the project.

Did you have run-ins with the infamous Indian red tape?

Although a lot is talked about the famous Indian red tape, I think there are many pockets of excellence within the Indian government. And in the UID organization we found a world class team that was passionate in implementing the solution and hence we did not run into any of the 'red tape' as perceived by others.

Did the fact that project leader Nandan Nilekani came from Infosys help with the IT challenge?

Mr. Nandan Nilekani is a great visionary and it was his vision to try and create a solution that will improve service delivery to citizens and make it substantively different. His background working in a software company did help his ability to influence his stakeholders in a manner in which they accepted the solution far more easily.

Is the experience acquired with the project going to help Mindtree in future?

Clearly the experience which we have gained in UID will help Mindtree in the future. Today the UID application is one of the largest data bases across the world and having been engaged with the project of this scale the experience gained will help us do complex work for our customers.

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