India’s National ID Card Program

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Nov 09, 2010 @ 11:24 AM

RFID and Biometrics to Deliver Access to Social Services

India ID CardIn our Billions of Identities post, we highlighted India as a country that has begun issuing RFID and biometric enhanced ID cards to their citizens.  Kicked off in September 2010, the project in India seeks to record fingerprint and iris scans from all residents and store them in a central database.  Given India’s population of 1.2 billion, it is no surprise that this is considered to be the most technologically and logistically complex national ID efforts ever attempted.

The goals of the program are honorable.  Among other objectives, the country’s leaders are hoping to solve development problems and assist in delivering social service spending to hundreds of millions of poor.  According to reports, 40% of benefits in India’s welfare system are stolen by people with fake identification papers.  The national ID program aims to put an end to this fraudulent practice and provide subsidies for food, diesel, fertilizer and jobs to those who really need them.

Modernization through technology is nothing new for India and the government is hoping to be able to leverage the experience it gained over the last two decades while implementing programs to digitize land records, computerize tax filing systems, and provide its citizens with information about government agencies.  Legislation is also being drafted to address the data security and privacy concerns some have with implementing a national ID program, with violators facing stiff fines and prison time.

Technology has helped advance many types of services for many countries – from education to public safety to automating the delivery of healthcare – often resulting in enhanced outcome-focused program delivery.  With the right intentions, oversight and respect for individual privacy rights, it appears India is on track with its national ID program.

What are your thoughts about the growing use of RFID and biometric-enabled national ID cards?  Do the proposed benefits of modernization, reduced fraud, and security outweigh the potential risks?

[Photo credit: BBC News]

Tags: RFID, Service Delivery, National ID Cards

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