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Aadhaar has helped govt save $9 b from being lost to fraud, wastage: Nilekani

Surabhi Washington | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 13, 2017

Nandan Nilekani

Says digital infrastructure will help people use their data for better healthcare and jobs

Amidst the continuing debate about the use of Aadhaar for government benefits, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani said that the infrastructure created for the 12-digit biometric identification number will enable individuals to use their own data for their own advancement.

Addressing a World Bank event, ‘Digital Economy for Development’, Nilekani, who is also the former Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, which he had helped set up, said that developing countries, individuals and small businesses have to get data rich before they can get economically rich.

The digital infrastructure will help people use their data for better healthcare and jobs, he said, adding that it will also help people join the formal economy.

Nilekani also said Aadhaar has received bipartisan support from both the UPA, which launched it, and from the current NDA government. Over 1 billion people are now enrolled in the system, he added.

“It has saved $9 billion in fraud and wastage for the government,” he said, adding that 0.5 billion people have linked their bank accounts with Aadhaar to get benefits.

This has made the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme the world’s largest real-time cash transfer scheme, he noted.

Talking about the new data economy, Nilekani said that identity, authentication and frictionless payments are important layers in it.

“People in India can make paperless transactions, which decreases costs and increases reach,” he said.

Data privacy

However, important questions also arise over ownership of the data, breaches, private-sector use of consumer data and by the government for surveillance. “How do people get their own data back?” asked Nilekani.

He said that the Supreme Court has confirmed that privacy is a fundamental right and termed its judgment as “brilliant” as it has put together a framework of situations in which the right to privacy can be circumvented.

The writer is in Washington DC as part of the IMF Journalism Fellowship 2017

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Published on October 13, 2017
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