Nandan Nilekani, the architect of the Aadhaar card scheme, said that the government has saved about $9 billion (Rs. 58,204 crore) by eliminating fraud in government beneficiary lists. Participating in a World Bank panel, the 62-year-old non-executive chairman of Infosys said that the Aadhaar program has enrolled more than a billion people till now. Mr Nilekani also talked about the advantages of having a strong digital infrastructure in a developing country.
“It has also saved the government about $9 billion in fraud and wastage because by having that unique number you eliminate fakes and duplicates from your beneficiary and employee list,” Nilekani said at the event on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Here are some of Nandan Nilekani’s comments on the Aadhaar project:
The system, launched by the previous UPA government, has been “enthusiastically” supported by the current government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Mr Nilekani said.
In the new world of data economy, identity authentication, frictionless payments, paperless transactions are all very important layers of the new digital economy. That is what India has done, he said, adding that 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.
Emphasizing the difference between adoption of digital economies by developed and developing countries, Mr Nilekani said in developing countries, people have become data rich before they become economically rich. “So in a society where per capita income is $1500 and you are data rich, the business model is how do we create an architecture where individuals and businesses are able to trade in their data to improve their lives. That is the heart of the question.”
Nilekani said that the question of how data use can address inequality has not been discussed enough.
“I’m a big believer that if you build the right digital infrastructure then you can leapfrog,” Nilekani, the former chairman of Unique Identity Development Authority of India (UIDAI), said.