A unique ID programme in India

Focus, Normal

The National, Thursday 04th April, 2013

MORPHO is one of the companies chosen to take part in an unprecedented programme, called Aadhaar, to count everybody residing in India and then assign each person a unique identification number.
The ambitious Aadhaar project, which kicked off in the summer of 2009, reflects a deliberate sociopolitical aim.
The Indian government plans to give everybody residing in the country (citizens of course, but also expats, etc.) a unique number which will be inscribed on their ID cards and on all official documents belonging to each person, for life.
“he idea is to give an identity to hundreds of millions of Indians who don’t have one,” summarises Sabine Domenget, head of sales and marketing in Asia for Morpho.
“It will enable people to open cheque accounts, apply for loans, insurance, pensions, property deeds, etc.
“What’s more, the government wants to make sure that welfare benefits go directly to the right person.”
The Aadhaar project is in fact the technology facet of a vast census programme.
“Biometrics is the only way of being sure that a number matches a person,” Domenget notes.
“Indian authorities opted for ‘multibiometrics’, which in this case means combining a photo, an iris scan and fingerprints.”
Since the programme will eventually cover more than 1.2 billion people, a complete registration process has been developed to record biometric data from everybody 15 years old and above.
A limited amount of administrative data is collected at the same time, to protect privacy, and all information is centralised in a large database.
Having decided to work with several different suppliers, the Indian government issued a request for proposals (RFP) for an initial phase involving the establishment of a database limited to 200 million people.
Three consortiums were selected and placed in competition (for the next phase), including one formed by Morpho and the Indian company Mahindra Satyam.
“We wanted to team up with a major national player in information technology,”  Domenget. exlains.
“Mahindra Satyam is a key player in this sector, and we hit it off right away.”
Morpho is in charge of all technological aspects of Aadhaar, and is bolstering its local presence by creating a dedicated subsidiary. Mahindra Satyam will help install the system, provide maintenance and train users.
Another important part of the project, covered by a separate RFP, is the registration and collection of biometric data.
Domenget explains: “Smartchip, a Morpho subsidiary, is one of the 179 entities selected to take the photos, iris scans and fingerprints. Not only will it use Morpho terminals, but it also intends to sell them to the 178 other service providers.”
In other words, Safran is involved at several levels of this revolutionary project.
As soon as a significant part of the database is completed, certain applications will be launched, including transport tickets, secure documents and of course the national unique ID cards.
“We are also expecting to take charge of issuing documents,” Domenget adds.
“That’s why it was so important for us to be involved in the preliminary stages of the project, which enabled us to establish a real feeling of mutual trust with the Indian government.”
    And this confidence was justified, since the first actual identification operations were carried out using only Morpho technology. – AFP