India is well underway in the registration phase of their UID project. On enrollment each citizen is receiving a unique 12 digit UID number. The number is directly linked to each individual’s personal information based on biometrics captured and stored on a central nationwide database.
Of course the mammoth scale of the project meant that it caught the attention of the media and a certain amount of hype around the project was created, but where is the project now and is it living up to its expectations?
Still in the enrolment process I can’t help but feel I was a little mislead by the Indian government’s initial promises and aims, which now seem very unrealistic when you look at the actual progress made so far. Most media coverage you see now is negative arguing that enrolment target figures are not being met and that the project is at risk of running over budget. Of course you have to expect some flexibility in lead times when embarking on a program with remote areas hard to access and with such a massive population to enroll. All these factors need to be taken into consideration, but this said I thought that the initial phase of registration would be conducted at a speedy pace to allow the government to initiate other new and exciting add on services that they have been trialing, directly linked to the UID numbers. This has not really materialized with the enrolment phase still in its infancy.
Trials have taken place for smart pension cards, voter’s registration and welfare cards. For mass distribution to begin the first phase must be completed. We have even seen the possibility of adding payment and banking applications linked to the project using the UID number to allow access to certain ATM services without the need for a card. As innovative as these add on services may seem we must for now wait in anticipation, be patient and hope that the once positively hyped project reproduces what they originally set out to do and does not disappear eventually being forgotten. Although progress is being made I fear (as I am sure others do also) that budgetary constraints could result in parts of the project being scrapped, shelved or watered down.
The Indian project is one of the largest in the world, but many other countries are migrating to different forms of ID documentation and healthcare solutions. The newly released report titled “Government and Healthcare Citizen ID” discusses the trends and forecasted shipments for government issued credentials to their citizens, including the anticipated Russian multi-application smart national ID card, China’s migration to a microcontroller IC and Nigeria’s new attempt to implement another national ID scheme to name but a few. The report can be found under ABI Research’s Smart Cards and Embedded Security group.