India’s largest cellular service provider Airtel has decided to introduce the use of Aadhaar in its services in Delhi.
They are following suit after Vodafone started including the use of India’s ambitious unique identification system in their services.
Airtel’s move is an added achievement for the body implementing India’s equivalent of the US social security number, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Their scheme is primarily aimed at helping the poor obtain access to key services to support themselves.
Telecom players using the Aadhaar system will need to scan fingerprints of Aadhaar number holders and arrange to get them tallied with those stored in the national database controlled by UIDAI. Only if the authentication is successful, SIM cards will be provided.
I’ve heard stories of impersonators obtaining SIM cards after stealing vital documents like electricity bills – the Aadhaar system, with both photographs and fingerprints recorded centrally, promises to make this a thing of the past if implemented at a sufficiently large scale.
This will be a boon for people who are unable to obtain passports, PAN cards, ration cards or election cards, but still need a means for identification for mobile phone services.
So far, about 21 crore (210 million) people have been issued Aadhaar cards. Majority of Indian residents are expected to possess their own Aadhaar numbers in the coming decade.
Aadhaar Numbers and Telecom Subscribers: The Hurdles
The main problem will be manifest in the millions of people who manage to sneak into India from remote jungles and rivers along the borders, and begin to call the country their own.
There is also a problem of incomplete or changing addresses, which can result in frustration among authorities trying to make life easy for citizens.
While the UIDAI is carrying out an unprecedented job in indexing the country’s citizens, there are key questions that remain. Is the technology being used free from glitches, and immune from intervention by corrupt human operators?
Are the laws adequate enough to deal with wrongdoers among the operators tasked with handling subscribers’ data?