The soon-to-be allotted unique identification numbers to Indian citizens could act as a tool to drive financial inclusion of the rural and poor people, the Unique Identity Authority chairman Nanadan Nilekani said on Tuesday.
"Lack of identity is hurting people and blocking progress. Aadhar (the brand name for UID) can serve as the know your customer guidelines that banks have. It can reduce friction for the poor person who is trying to access public services like banking," Nilekani said, addressing an interactive session on UID organised by industry lobby CII.
Explaining UID's various uses, Nilekani said that a lot depended on the way applications were developed to utilise the UID number.
"India has about 600,000 villages and it is not possible for a bank to put up an ATM in every village. But you can use this number in a micro ATM, where there is a biometric reader," said the former Infosys co-chairman, who quit the software major to join the government nine months back.
"Millions of people lack proper proof like we have...driving licenses, PAN card, credit cards. So it becomes difficult for these people to access public services, like a bank account or even get a mobile phone as know-your-customer guidelines are getting more stringent."
The rollout of the unique numbers, christened Aadhar, will begin from August 2010, Nilekani said.
Each number will be unique to an individual, with fingerprints of all 10 fingers and an iris scan of the eye used to identify the person.
In the next four and a half years, about 600 million numbers will be issued.
To do this, the UID authority is liaisoning with various state and central organisations, like the national population register for which Census 2011 has already started.
The rolling out of UID numbers is a mammoth logistical challenge. "It has not been done yet anywhere in the world. The largest biometric system has 1.2 million users, we are targeting about 10 times of that," said Nilekani.