Bangalore: The future of Aadhaar hangs in balance, with the Supreme Court stating that it cannot be made mandatory for government benefits.
But Nandan Nilekani, chief architect of the project and chairman of the Unique Identification Development Authority of India, believes it is here to stay. He argues that India is the only country where even the poorest and the most vulnerable have got a digital identity, moving from a status of no identity.
“When 470 million people have come forward to get the Aadhaar number, it is the real thing playing out. The life of Aadhaar is in the numbers,” Nilekani told an audience during Nasscom’s product conclave in the City.
When technology entrepreneur Ravi Gururaj asked Nilekani whether Aadhaar or Facebook would exist in future, Nilekani said: “Äadhaar will be there for sure. Facebook? Well, Facebook could also be there.”
On whether the Supreme Court would block the rollout of Aadhaar, the Infosys co-founder said, “The matter is sub judice. Suffice it to say that when half a billion people have and want the number and identity, it means it is here to stay.”
The technocrat said the most fundamental transformations in the world happen in government and for public good before they reach the larger community. “The Internet and GPS began in government and public work. The GPS was a military application, but has now grown to be a half-a-billion dollar industry. Internet is everywhere now. So also, Aadhaar has begun with the government, but very soon we shall see the entire private sector and civil society adopt Aadhaar, from payment of salaries to opening health records. Aadhaar will have multiple applications in multiple sectors and domains,”Nilekani said.
When Deccan Herald asked Nilekani whether Bangalore would generate the maximum number of applications for Aadhaar, Nilekani said: “I will be very happy wherever the applications come from – Bangalore, Delhi or Mumbai. But, of course, it’ll be great if it comes from Bangalore. I am aware 40 per cent of all technology startups originate in Bangalore.”
When concerns over security of Aadhaar data were raised, Nilekani asked: “You’re willing to put all your information on the net everywhere, so what’s the problem in putting it in a place which is built on security and which guarantees privacy? We’ve given detailed attention to security and we’re doing everything to keep it safe.”
Nilekani was combative when a member in the audience said he could do without Aadhaar because he had other identity documents. “I don’t want Aadhaar. Why make it compulsory?” he asked.
Nilekani retorted: “If you don’t want Aadhaar, be my guest. I can only tell you Aadhaar will tomorrow be a convenience thing and you can transact everything online, even from your mobile phone after just one authentication. You’re entering a paperless, digital world. Aadhaar is for people who don’t have any form of identity, no access to resources, essential goods and services, to a job or to food.”