ID cards for India’s 1.1 billion

The Independent
27.06.2009
By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi

ID cards planned for India’s 1.1 billion

Hi-tech entrepreneur will lead operation to create huge database

India is to embark on an ambitious plan to provide each of its 1.1 billion-plus citizens with a national identity card and has picked an industrialist who helped to spearhead the country’s IT revolution to lead the project.

Nandan Nilekani, the entrepreneur who helped the best-selling author Thomas Friedman to coin the phrase and book title “The world is flat”, was asked by the government to help to create what would be the largest citizens’ database in a democracy. Only China has a larger scheme.

the government also hopes that the creation of the scheme will boost national security and help police and law and order officials. The creation of the ID or Unique Identification Number (UID)

Some have also expressed concerns that the scheme could be divisive.

The recruitment of Mr Nilekani, 54, a founder of the Bangalore-based Infosys Technologies, is a coup for the government of Manmohan Singh, who contacted him earlier in the month with an invitation to join a planning commission.

Mr Nilekani will stand down from his position as co-chairman of Infosys to avoid a conflict of interest, and will serve on a specially formed commission – the Unique Identification Authority of India – with the rank equivalent to a cabinet minister.

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Finacle from Infosys

Bank on the Fact: There’s Only 1 You!

Uniquely identifying humans, based on one or more intrinsic physical or behavioural trait, by various systems,

Banks like Deutsche Bank and Citibank have been using biometrics for several years, for employee access to computer server rooms. But, when it comes to uniquely identifying users or customers for banking transactions, banks have been slow to deploy biometrics for authentication, due to the stigma associated with it. Even in the light of the fact that the 9/11 terrorists accessed bank accounts with fraudulent social security numbers, there are no biometric measures in treasury departments’ proposed mandates to ensure customer identification.

However, the new biometric standard for financial services, ISO 19092:2008, by the International Organization for Standardization, could result in increased adoption.

Most commonly used biometrics include:

  • Face: The analysis of facial characteristics
  • Fingerprint: The analysis of an individual’s unique fingerprints
  • Hand geometry: The analysis of the shape of the hand and the length of the fingers
  • Retina: The analysis of the capillary vessels located at the back of the eye
  • Iris: The analysis of the colored ring that surrounds the eye’s pupil
  • Signature: The analysis of the way a person signs his or her name
  • Vein: The analysis of the pattern of veins at the back of the hand and wrist
  • Voice: The analysis of the tone, pitch, cadence and frequency of a person’s voice

Biometrics is yet to be deployed in full-scale by the financial services industry. The most pervasive use of biometrics today appears to be associated with employees rather than customers. Experts expect that heightened concerns about financial fraud, combined with improvements in the technology’s reliability through standards and compliance rules,
will encourage more banks to join retailers, government agencies and other industries that have led the way in applying biometrics.

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