Note: In his November 23, 2012 lecture which faced walk out by civil liberties and human rights activists and student leaders, Nilekani talks about a gigantic naming ceremony underway-mankind’s biggest biometric database ever at. He says, if you do not have the Aadhaar card you will not get the right to rights. UID is like a financial address for the people.
The question is if Aadhaar card is only an identifier of residents of India how does it accord to itself an inherent right to approve or disapprove rights of citizens to have rights?
Nilekani mentions the October 2012 report of the Report ofthe Justice A P Shah headed Group of Experts on Privacy but ignores the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and Statement of Concern on UID that Justice Shah had co-signed.
When Nilekani acknowledges that privacy is larger than Adhaar and says that legal framework will even out the design risks, he takes the audience for ride by hiding the fact that he is putting the cart before the horse because while the legal framework for both the UID and Privacy is absent the implementation of UID and National Population Register (NPR) is unfolding illegally and illegitimately.
Find below the notes of Nilekani’s lecture prepared by Ravinder Bawa, a journalist who attended Nilekani’s lecture on November 23, 2012 at India International Centre, New Delhi
Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
Nandan Nilenkani in a lecture on UID (don’t use them as direct quotes)
There is no claim that technology can solve all the problems but a part of the problem and be solved and addressed through technology. Few things are-
It is important that the identity be recognized by the state, and in our country more than 50 per cent people do not have birth certificates. To handle this situation the government has to come out with a solution that can be dealt with at a mass level. There has to be a way to assign IDs, a formal ID for all these people. This is the first task of inclusion is to have a way of acknowledging existence.
It’s like a gigantic naming ceremony, to get the names in the system. It is like a gigantic Ellis Island project of the 21st century. The real challenge is to how different this system be as compared to other systems in the world. Due to the need to have a 21st century welfare state, you need a ID system to be robust. We want to build a welfare state and give ID to many so in a way this project helps bridge the gap from point of view of people. It is a process of inclusion. It is a social inclusion project system. We are designing a modern system, a digital system. It is leapfrogging to have a digital ID which works in the online world therefore it enables us to access mobility and choice for the people in the system where people are migrating.
Choice and Access
In the modern ID system the id travels with the people when they move from point A to point B. It gives them mobility. It gives them the choice (to use all ration shop and not just the one which they are registered with). It is something like what markets did to Indian middle-class, they gave them choice- what to buy where to buy it from. They were given choice through markets. Earlier the people who had no buying power so their choice was limited.
If you look at the PDS system a person is assigned to one shop or one primary health centre. Their’s is connect a static connect. In the existing public delivery system the bargaining power lies with the service provider. The second benefit is that the ID enables choice. If it is online then I can verify the ID in any shop and it can disconnect the physical location fundamentally. This choice in important from the point of view of inclusion and accessing this choice becomes important.
Thirdly it is the design. Unless it is a unique ID you cannot get anywhere. To identify a person uniquely is important to the Adhaar card. If you do not have the card you will not get the right to rights. It is about aam aadmi ka adhikar. While designing it, this aspect is kept in mind and that’s why we have biometrics. This is what are the uses of the card, it can be used in healthcare, any application this ID can be used. We are creating different applications in which this ID can be used.
It is like the I-phone which has different applications and each ones uses the application more useful to them. It is like an open platform and then different services can use this on different applications.
How do people get entry into a service. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER KYC, to access any service. It will get u access to basic products like bank, phone or any other. Financial action task force had, many years back, laid down basic procedures and then India made the PMLA act under which you specify what documents need to be provided for you to open an account or access a particular service. Aadhar has been included in it.
We are using technology to get everyone access banks under PMLA. This allows people access bank accounts, phones, micro mutual funds it is a gateway to getting any kind of product and service. By creating this system we are creating the access to various services- 220 million people have access already and it is access at large scale. It is ability to use technology to provide access at scale.
Now we have the concept of electronic KYC where u are authorised to use UID to open a bank account instantly. U do not need any documents. You walk into the bank and your account can be opened. Ability to give instant access amplifies the reach and EKYC property gives u online access.
Many government programmes exist where the government gives cash to people. There is a way to make it better. Now you will have this unique ID and with it a bank account and money can reach the account directly, there will be no middleman. In the process you do to have to give a cut to the delivering point. This ID is like a financial address for the people if the govt wants to send money it can do it directly. From pension to payments under MNREGS…all can be sent directly to the people. Ability to use Adhaar as financial address allows you to have a financial access. It just sends money to the number. This is another access point. The government will be able to give money to the individual’s bank account. U suddenly empower crores of people. KYC of bank account allows u to make bank account and cash transfers and you get the money you are entitled to.
Accessing this money is also made simple. Government will create a network of access points similar to ATMS or customer service points. All will be interoperable. Grids which are interoperable will be created and there will be micro ATMs from where you can access the money.
Cash Transfers is to make the people get the money easily. This technology is fundamental to change the relationship between the individual and the state. It is fundamental to access and empowerment. It is at scale and at speed.
Preivew and Screening is a concern, security is a concern. The amount of info we are collection is basic information about an individual, the purpose is to provide a unique ID. Biometrics is done to get de-duplication and outline verification. It is name address and bioemetrics.
This is not humungous database with everything about you. It is just like a verigfication id. This is an architecture. It is designed in a way as federated architecture. UID does not know what the system does not know. It does not know what transactions you have done. There are multiple databases and they do not know what has been the way of operation in each other. No one system knows everything. People could combine databases.
We will need a legal superstructure to provide data privacy data prevention rules. Privacy is larger than Adhaar. In the digital world, all of your data is digital, the solution is not don’t do it, but have a legal superstructure where we can balance convenience with privacy. Justice Shah has come out with privacy issue report. Adhaar is a part of the bigger eco system. It is providing millions a tangible system of choice, mobility, cash transfers and to make the balance between the benefit and the legal framework is important.
Transparency is an issue in our society right now. Corruption is an issue. I personally don’t think the solution is to add more laws, we have to think differently in solving the corruption issue. We can create a choice based architecture then we can deal with corruption problem. We have to think of using this technology in a smart way. We will be able to deal with these challenges. How do we use technology to completely change access? How do government decide who gets what? Its like you go to Amazon or ebay…they allow everyone to come on board and then they throw out the bad apples who do not use the system for the right purposes. At the point of entry there is not one who is stopped. U can enter the system as there are no barriers at the point of entry. Technology allows all to enter the system and then identify public policy design, give everyone an opportunity and this is ultimate inclusion.
We can use data to see who is beating the system. Who are playing by the rules and who are not. My point is that the fundamental issue of access to basic services should be made available to the people. We have to keep in mind the choice and access while we use the technology imaginatively. This of course has risks circulated by design but a legal framework evens it out and the risk is worth it.
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