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‘Aadhaar, India’s gateway to global digital dominance’

While the Indian IT industry has been left behind in the chase for global internet data, the great success story of Aadhaar has the potential to leap frog India back into the race.

lucknow Updated: Mar 13, 2018 12:48 IST
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Aadhaar,Global digital dominance,India's gateway

India provides the highest number of employees to Google and Facebook. They work for free. You may not realise but you are one of them. Millions of Indians generate text, voice and video content worth billions of dollars annually for these global IT giants. Google, Facebook and the likes monetise this meta data for various commercial uses, the chief among them being advertising.

It is estimated that more than 80% of corporate India’s digital advertising budget is spent on Google, Facebook and other non-Indian companies. For the fiscal 2017, Google India Pvt Ltd reported a turnover of Rs 7,208 crore. In the case of Facebook India, the turnover for the same period was Rs 341 crore. From mere start-ups these American IT giants have metamorphosed to media centres of global influence. Google and Facebook are so powerful that the US state is reported to be backing them as strategic tools for its mission on global dominance.

Near home, the astute ‘Great Firewall of China’ has successfully restricted Google, Netflix and Facebook from exploiting the large internet user base in that country. This has provided the environment for Chinese giants like Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba to grow into individual multibillion conglomerates.

While the Indian IT industry has been left behind in the chase for global internet data, the great success story of Aadhaar has the potential to leap frog India back into the race. While Aadhaar 1.0 has given every Indian citizen a unique digital identity, an Aadhaar 2.0 can give every Indian citizen a unique cyber personality.

In an era where data is the new oil, a unique email citizen@uidai.com or citizen@aadhaar.com can be used as a single window for all G2C services of the government. This grand digital platform can be managed by a semi government organisation like UIDAI with a team built by scouting for the best global talent available. A mild persuasion on the part of the government coupled with generous digital sweeteners can make the Aadhaar- based email among the biggest digital platforms in the world.

According to the Electronic Transaction Aggregation and Analysis Layer (http://etaal.gov.in/etaal/auth/login.aspx), more than 3500 government services are online, most of which are G2C transactions. The unique Aadhaar-based email can be registered to these services. The service providers can pass on certain exclusive and free services to the email account holders such as statement of banking transactions, TDS reconciliation, financial advice on National Pension Scheme, electronic medical reports under the proposed NHPS, copies of land records and CIBIL reports.

With time, the UIDAI like organisations can collaborate with the private sector to provide the account holders special discount schemes on airlines tickets, movie theatres, mobile bill recharge and other online transactions. The list is endless. The millions of TB of meta data generated can be monetised to earn revenue for the government.

The exponential progress of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology can be further added to make transactions through this unique platform safe and efficient.

Google is not merely an email service provider but the door to its exclusive basket of digital services and consequent monopoly over Indian digital data is through the Gmail. A unique Aadhaar-based email account for all Indians can be the foot in the door for the universe of benefits the digital world promises for India.

For the doomsday sayers fearing government use of personal data, the meta data monetised by a UIDAI like organisation would not be any other than what they are already sharing with Google, Facebook, Amazon and the likes. World over all global IT giants, Google or WeChat, have open or tacit government patronage behind their success stories. The UIDAI has achieved world class standards in the implementation of Aadhaar, there is no reason why we cannot do the same in taking on the foreign IT giants dominating the world of India’s digital data.

-Rigzin Samphel

The writer is an IAS officer of the 2003 batch, posted as special secretary to UP CM. Views expressed by the author are personal)

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 12:48 IST