India's Attempt to ID Every Indian

Friday, September 27, 2013


In a 2009 book called Imagining India, Indian tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani imagined a way to address India’s most vexing problems of corruption, poverty and lack of social services – a unique ID number for every Indian. 4 years later, India has undertaken the biggest ID program in human history. It’s called Aadhaar, and Nilekani oversees it. But trying to register 1.2 billion people, many for the first time, comes with serious privacy and data-collection concerns. OTM reporter Jamie York went to India to speak with Nilekani and lawyer Malavika Jayaram about the risk and reward of identifying every Indian.


Malavika Jayaram and Nandan Nilekani,

Produced by:

Jamie York

Comments [1]

It was fascinating to hear of the Indian efforts to establish a national identity system. In light of the difficulty of the US effort to create a better identity ecology (yes, a bit weirder here in US), the Indian experiment is quite bold (are you listening

I would recommend the BLT (or BLTS) methodology for designing a system, especially an identity one. Often it is easy for technologists to not get the existing business models and use of identity, the legal aspects (especially de facto or buried regulations) and the social implications. This OTM piece did an excellent job of bringing up the problems in the role out in each of these areas. It would do well for Aadhaar to doing this analysis (perhaps they already have). Mapping the use of identity in various business models/transactions against the legal issues (jurisdiction, liability, contractual), and finally looking at the map of the technical implementations. And then the social issues raised.

Good luck. I drafted the first US federal law on electronic signatures and have worked on identity issues and feel your pain. Very impressive roll out and great potential.

Sep. 30 2013 12:32 PM

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