The rise of India's Silicon Valley
Despite first being launched in 2009, the Aadhaar project has received little attention globally following its implementation in India’s society. Before 2009, nearly 50 percent of Indian citizens had no form of identification – those born outside of urban areas or those who did not have access to hospitals or government agencies were not issued a birth certificate (Forbes 2017). This lack of formal identification meant that a large proportion of Indians had no access to the basic gateways of modern life, such as a bank account or a driving licence. Poverty and illegally operated ventures were rife, and a lack of bureaucracy meant that the Indian government was collecting little to no tax from these undocumented citizens which further perpetuated widespread destitution.
Image credit: Deccan Herald
The solution came in an unexpected and technologically advanced way: the launch of Aadhaar. This project aimed to create a biometric database of all citizens, using a 12 digit unique ‘digital identity’ which was authenticated by the user’s fingerprints and retinal scans (uidai.gov.in). As of 2016, 1.1 billion Indian citizens registered using Aadhaar and held a form of digital identity which could be used in everyday life. The project allowed for anyone who held an Aadhaar account to open a bank account, which led to $10 billion being deposited within three years of the project launch. With the rise of technological adaptiveness and ease of access, Aadhaar has become compatible with multiple smartphone operating systems, allowing citizens to access their unique digital identity and make and receive instant payments via QR code (The Tribune 2012).
Using a sophisticated system Aadhaar is operable on as little as a 2G network, which allows for citizens in far-reaching rural areas to remain connected to their digital identities and continue engaging in legitimate business activity. This is revolutionary, as rural farmers are now able to access bank accounts and set up ‘crop insurance’ (The Economic Times 2017), which guarantees an increase in security within the agricultural sector (roughly 55 percent of the Indian workforce). As India approaches a cashless society, Aadhaar allows for everything from accessing bank accounts and making payments, to allowing for digital records to be kept online. This has made medical, tax, and insurance records accessible to a larger percentage of all citizens (The Hindu 2017).
As of 2022, parents are able to submit applications for children under five years old without the need for biometric information (Krishi Jagran 2022). This promotes children being accounted for and gives them the opportunities to succeed in life from an early age. All in all, Aadhaar is a project that has revolutionised the Indian economy, rivalled the developments of Silicon Valley, and provided a means to escape structural inequality.
Forbes (2017). India’s Tech Revolution Has Already Left The West Behind — It’s The Best Investment Opportunity Now, https://www.forbes.com
Krishi Jagran (2022). Baal Aadhar Card Latest Update 2022: No Need of Biometric, Find Application Process Inside, https://krishijagran.com
The Economic Times India (2017). Government makes Aadhaar mandatory for crop insurance policies, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com
The Hindu (2017). The long list of Aadhaar-linked schemes, https://www.thehindu.com
The Tribune, Chandigarh, India (2012). Cash transfer of subsidies in 51 districts begins on Jan 1, https://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20121125/main1.htm.
Unique Identification Authority of India, https://uidai.gov.in/