'GPS answers the question, Where am I? Aadhaar answers, Who am I?'


At the Express Adda held in Mumbai last week, Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, Nandan Nilekani, spoke about Aadhaar, the challenges in implementing it and how working with the government is a new ball game for him

At the latest edition of Express Adda, presented by Reid & Taylor and in association with Visa, India Infoline Finance Limited (IIFL) and Olive Bar & Kitchen, held in Mumbai last week, UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani spoke extensively about Aadhaar and how it works. During a conversation with a select audience, moderated by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Express Group, and Adil Zainulbhai, Chairman, McKinsey & Company, India, Nilekani spoke about the challenges in implementing Aadhaar, the support he has got from the government and how he will see it through till the end. Excerpts from the conversation:

The Aadhaar Way

The idea of Aadhaar has oscillated from being a security-driven product to a development-led idea to improve public services. Suddenly, people realised that the underlying basis for distributing these benefits, the identity itself, was suspect that's how the project began in 2006. After I came into the scene, we built a solution that's open, one that would have cash transfers as just the first application. So thinking of it as a platform was our contribution. Secondly, our aim was to create an ecosystem as opposed to creating a monolithic, large organisation. There are less than 300 people in our group but we have, maybe, one lakh people in our ecosystem.

The Positives

The most positive thing was to find real, passionate people in the government who really want changes to happen and often the circumstances don't allow them to do that. I was able to assemble that team, so that my team works very passionately. For me, making this Aadhaar project has been a very important strategic activity. The irreversibility will come when at least half a billion Indians have an Aadhaar number and there are major applications like cash transfers delivering benefits to millions of people.

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