Former UIDAI Chiarman Nandan Nilekani on Thursday said that India's unique identity project -Aadhaar- has helped the public exchequer save about USD 9 billion by eliminating frauds in the financial distribution system. He praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for 'enthusiastically' supporting Aadhaar -a biometric- based identity programme which was launched by the previous UPA government. Ever since the Prime Minister took over, he has been streamlining the financial distribution system by linking other identity cards including PAN number and account number with Aadhaar. The Modi government has so far made Aadhaar mandatory for almost half a dozen state-sponsored schemes to curb the corruption.
Explaining the benefit of unique identification number to Indian government, Nilekani said: "It has saved the government about USD 9 billion in fraud and wastage because by having that unique number you eliminate fakes and duplicates from your beneficiary and employee list." So far, more than 1 billion people have already been registered under Aadhaar. Nilekani further said that India has about half a billion people who have connected their ID directly to a bank account. "The government has transferred about USD 12 billion into bank accounts electronically in real time to the world's largest cash transfer system," he added.
Nilekani, who is currently the non-executive chairman of Infosys, was speaking at World Bank event on Digital Economy for Development. He said that it is easier for the developing countries to leapfrog by building a right digital infrastructure. Former UIDAI Chiarman also highlighted the important layers of the digital economy and said that the identity authentication, frictionless payments and paperless transactions are significant in the new world of data economy. India is the only country in the world where a billion people can do completely paperless, cashless transactions on their mobile phones using this infrastructure which dramatically reduces costs, he said.
Nilekani further stated that India has created infrastructures that enable every individual to use his or her data for their advancement, which is fundamental. "Once you bring cost down, automatically inclusion happens," Nilekani said. He also said that the question of how data use can address inequality has not been discussed enough. "When the internet happened in the West in the last 15 years, the West was economically rich before they became data rich. But in developing countries people have become data rich before they become economically rich," Nilekani said.
Earlier in June, the World Bank had also praised India's Aadhaar project and suggested other countries to replicate the model for economic transformation. In its World Development Report 2016, the World Bank wrote: "Technology can be transformational. A digital identification system such as India's Aadhaar, by overcoming complex information problems, helps willing governments to promote the inclusion of disadvantaged groups." It further said that If India could provide unique digital identification to 1 billion people in five years, and thereby reduce corruption by billions of dollars, why can't other countries replicate its success?