The Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Nandan Nilekani said the organisation is “in the process of deciding on the biometric attributes it plans to use for identifying citizens.”
Delivering a lecture, ‘The UID Project: issues and challenges,’ at the Platinum Jubilee celebrations at the Indian Academy of Sciences in Bangalore on Thursday, Mr. Nilekani said the UIDAI’s biometrics committee will decide soon whether to use fingerprints, iris recognition “or a combination of other physiological attributes that will provide an individual’s biometric signature.”
Mr. Nilekani said every biometric signature would be compared at the time of entry with every other existing entry in the UIDAI’s “centralised database” to check its authenticity. However, he cautioned that the process of verification had to be “considerate and sensitive, taking into account the reality that many poor people do not have documentation to back their claims to an identity.” He said an open-access platform would enable “online authentication” of entries in the database.
Mr. Nilekani said the UID would be a “number, not a card.” He said the Authority is “committed” to issuing the first UID within 12-18 months from August 12, 2009 when the UIDAI held its first meeting. It hopes to “roll out” 600 million UIDs within six years from that date, he said. “Full coverage of the population may take longer.”
Mr. Nilekani said a large number of people “have no means of proving their identity.” He pointed out that the UID is “only an instrument.” Although it “guarantees an identity, it does not guarantee entitlements to people. Having an identity is the first step for a citizen to avail of benefits from the state,” he said. This could be used to “promote inclusive growth.”
Mr. Nilekani said the UIDAI would enlist “partners” who would act as “registrars” of the database. State governments, oil companies, the Life Insurance Corporation, banks and other agencies could be these “partners.” “For our partners it would be a win-win situation because it will help reduce leakages and reduce their cost of verification.”
Referring to the “technological challenges,” Mr. Nilekani said the database’s architecture would require a complex array of thousands of computers, provision of “in-memory databases” (which enable speedier access of queries from the centralised database).