Indian ID scheme has already enrolled 160 million citizens

The Indian government’s plan to give all of its 1.2 billion citizens biometric ID cards is gathering pace, with 14 million enrolments a month

The Indian government’s plan to issue all of its 1.2 billion citizens with biometric ID cards is gathering pace, with the IT firm that built and supports the software to enrol citizens revealing that it is completing 14 million enrolments a month.

In 2010, tier-two Indian supplier MindTree won the contract to create and support the software used to enrol citizens, which includes the use of biometrics.

A datacentre will store an estimated 5MB of data about each person registered, which will involve some 4TB of new data every day during peak enrolment periods.

So far, 160 million people have had their identities recorded through the software. MindTree aims to enrol 600 million people by the end of 2014.

From a technology perspective, the ID scheme will have three major segments: the datacentre build and population; building a service centre to answer queries and resolve problems; and ensuring every single civic and public authority has applications so they can use the data.

“It is a complex and a challenging project, but a great example of how IT can positively impact on the lives of our people and help them towards a better livelihood,” said Anjan Lahiri, president of IT services at MindTree.

IT can positively impact on the lives of our people and help them towards a better livelihood

Anjan Lahiri, president of IT services, MindTree

After winning the contract in 2010, Lahiri told Computer Weekly the scheme would work because it was designed to alleviate poverty, rather than being driven by privacy like the UK ID card scheme.

Poor people in India do not have an identity, he said, which prevents them from opening bank accounts. Lahiri estimated that one billion of India's 1.3 billion people do not have bank accounts.

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

But by giving citizens a biometric ID, local stores can be used to distribute the money in the knowledge that the right person is getting it because of the unique identification. 

"We are creating financial access for one billion people and reducing transaction costs," said Lahiri.

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." 

Image: Thinkstock

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