“On 1 April 2010, the 2011 National Census began, covering India’s 1.2 billion-strong population in one single database. The census plans to include data on household access to treated drinking water.
“The Rs 2,200 crore (US$ 489 million) national census project will engage 2.5 million people to ensure that every citizen of the country is included. The enumerators will collect information like ownership of mobile phones, computers, internet, access to treated or untreated drinking water facility and obtain finger prints and photographs which will help government formulate plans and strengthen the country’s security.
“This is the largest census exercise ever to be attempted in the history of mankind. Once the database is finalized, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a new initiative led by entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani, founder of Infosys, will assign every individual a unique identification (UID) number. Later, this UID number will be added to the database. An ‘smart’ identity card has been proposed that will have the IUD number printed on it. It will include basic details such as name, mother’s/father’s name, sex, date and place of birth, and a photograph.
“A unique identification number will benefit the common man in many ways. It will do away with the need to produce multiple documentary proof of identity to get government or private services such as opening up a bank account. It will help in easy verification of the individual. The creation of an identity database will improve the targeting of beneficiary-oriented government and non-government schemes. The UID will also help in tax collection”
Implications from IFTF:
Despite the UID having massive amounts of potential to do good and help India better target their development funds, this cannot go without mention of the potential downside. The UID brings India potentially closer to a police state and the Big Brother scenario. One must also question how India will actually go about getting this information, citizens are typically not that interested in giving away private information to the government. This initiative will surely require an exhaustive public relations and information campaign.
Intellecap April 2010, page 8