The Indian Government is registering its population giving them a ‘universal identity number’ (UID).   The UID is linked to biometric markers, because hundreds of million people lack documents, addresses or even surnames.  

The aim of the government is to improve government and financial services at the same time reducing fraud and corruption.   Much of India’s subsidies for the poor do never reach them.  Middle men will no longer be able abscond food, because the actual recipient, by scanning the irises, can be identified and verified.  Financial transactions will be made easier because the recipient of funds can be properly identified.   Voter fraud will be curbed.  Credit bureaus will be delighted to have the UID as a reliable match code.   It will give Microfinance a boost because Microfinance credit bureaus will be able to correctly identify recipients, their payment performance and avoid over indebtedness due to the identification of multiple applications.  Going the electronic route as compared to using paper or plastic IDs makes sense.  Handing out 1.2 billion ID cards would be just as a daunting task and less foolproof.

No doubt this project is a tedious task to ascertain that there are no duplicate records, that the database is robust and to keep the systems safe from unauthorized alterations etc.   It is estimated that at the peak of the enrollment the system must be able to carry out 14 billion matches per second.

The task of registering the population has been awarded to Accenture, L1 Identity Solutions of America and Morpho of France.  The firm which performs the fasted and most accurate job gets 50% of the work. The others get 30% or 20%.  The allocation is frequently reassessed.

Source:  The Economist January 29th 2011 Issue