Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to act as a registrar for the delivery of the unique 12-digit identity numbers to customers, making it the first institution other than State governments to sign up with UIDAI.

UIDAI has envisioned the UID as a number that will make it possible for Indian residents to easily establish their identity to facilitate their interaction with various public and private agencies across the country. It is to be based on demographic and biometric data, that is, photograph, fingerprints (all ten fingers) and iris scan of an individual and hence prevents duplication. The UID number has been branded ‘Aadhaar' (foundation).

Addressing the media here, LIC Chairman T. S. Vijayan said, “LIC will be able to uniquely identify its customers thereby enhancing its efficiency in service delivery and achieving a high level of effectiveness in various operations. We know how to contact people and that is our strength. With over 14 lakh agents last year, we covered over six crore lives selling 3.88 crore new policies.''

Big challenge

UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani said, “when conceptualising UID, we took a few decisions very early on, one of which was to provide a number and not a card to all Indian residents. The big challenge is to ensure no duplication and so we will use biometrics. We also needed to have the concept of ‘online authentication' where an individual comes to a service point and his identity can be verified in seconds. The only equipment required is a mobile phone with a fingerprint reader. We decided to have multiple registrars to give as many UIDs as soon as possible and LIC is appropriate as the first registrar. We are also talking to organisations like the Reserve Bank of India, the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) and the Ministry of Finance.''

He added that the two main matrices of success were the speed of getting more people to have UID numbers and the speed of having them being able to derive value from it. “Inclusion is also most important because there are a few 100 million Indians with no IDs and ID has effectively become a divide between ‘haves and have-nots''. The UID project is a platform to bridge that gap.''

On schedule

According to UIDAI Director General and Mission Director R. S. Sharma, the roll out of the UID numbers is on schedule and would be between August 2010 and February 2011. “We are in the process of setting up back-end business continuity centres in Bangalore and New Delhi. The software is being delivered on time and there is a whole list of empanelled agencies to choose from for data collection.''

Mr. Sharma also clarified that the UID was “as of now only for resident Indians and non-resident Indians and other categories are not covered although the government may decide at a later date to do so.''