Aadhaar Enabled Smartphones: GOI’s Ambitious Plan Hits A Roadblock As Manufacturers Disagree
Will Govt. Succeed In Integrating Aadhaar Into Every Smartphone?
Last year in July, Govt. of India announced an ambitious plan to link every smartphone with Aadhaar database. This way, several Aadhaar based authentications such as biometric matching of data and Aadhaar Pay can be done right from the smartphone itself.
But after a year, it seems that the project has hit a major roadblock, as manufacturers of smartphones are reluctant to join the mission, and connect with the Aadhaar database, via handsets.
Besides few smartphone manufacturers like InFocus and Samsung, not many have come out and announced Aadhaar based smartphones/gadgets in India.
While Infocus launched a smartphone last year which had capability of iris scan for Aadhaar authentication, Samsung had launched their Galaxy Tab Iris, with the same functionality.
On the other hand, while IndusOS has claimed to be India’s first Aadhaar based OS, very few exciting developments have taken place in this niche.
Is privacy the concern or are the market dynamics changing?
Aadhaar Enabled Smartphones: The Govt.’s Take
As per Ajay Bhushan Pandey, the chief executive of UIDAI, the talks between smartphone manufacturers and Govt. regarding Aadhaar integration is ‘really evolving’, and things are getting sorted out.
In an exclusive interview with MoneyControl, he said, “.. The registered devices that we talked about, we have spoken to various manufacturers, so they are also working with us, so this is a continuous exercise. Aadhaar has to (be) delivered through devices. So all these devices are part of our ecosystem and we have to be continuously in talks with these manufacturers who are part of our hardware ecosystem.”
He claimed that things like iris and fingerprint scan are already available on existing phones, and it is just a matter of time before the ‘market’ understands the importance of Aadhaar based smartphones.
He said, “The Aadhaar enabled capability is there today also…Like for example, on your smartphone, you have iris and thumbprint. These things have already come out. Now it is for the market to decide. If there is a market, then every company will bring it.”
However, he admitted that if the market doesn’t want this feature, then it won’t be there.
Ajay Kumar, additional secretary at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology supported this argument, as he said, “The technology (for using biometrics through self-authentication) has been established clearly, with some manufacturers already bringing out devices that support it. However, it is market demand that will drive market adoption.”
Interestingly, last year, Ajay Pandey had indicated that Govt. may force smartphone manufacturers to include in-built Aadhaar based authentication in every smartphone.
What Is The Problem Here?
The problem, it seems, is privacy and intellectual rights.
The Aadhaar integration which Govt. was asking all manufacturers will work by integrating a chip in every smartphone, either made by Apple or Samsung.
This chip would directly connect with the Aadhaar database, and work as the instant authentication device for all Aadhaar related tasks.
And, the problem lies here.
Companies like Apple and Google are reluctant to embed this chip into their smartphones, which will literally open up their hardware to the spying eyes of the Govt.
There would be no intellectual secrets regarding hardware after that.
An unnamed source, who was part of the meetings between Govt. and smartphone manufacturers, said, “There was never a mandate to have Aadhaar-enabled phones, it was always market driven. It was too mammoth a task, and can’t be done,”
This indicates that the path is not smooth.
Govt. has tried cajoling, threatening and requesting Aadhaar integration into smartphones, but nothing is working.
What will be the Govt.’s next step?
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