Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Starting this month, the
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI) will begin the long process of matching each of its billion-plus citizens with a unique ID number. The number will be tied to three pieces of biometric data: fingerprints of all 10 digits, iris scans of both eyes, and facial recognition software. The system will be under the brand name "Aadhaar."

The plan hopes to ID 600 million people within the next four years. Citizens will not be required to be digi-tagged (my word, not theirs), but you will need the ID number to sign-up for a growing array of state services.

Aadhaar is largely being sold as a means to empower the vast swath of the Indian population living below the poverty line. While to the western eye, this is a huge expansion of centralized power, the official website makes the contrary argument, that Aadhaar empowers the poor by using new technology to bypass traditional economic infrastructures to sync millions more into the new Indian economy.