Examining the world’s largest digital ID program
Client: Omidyar Network
Sector: Digital identity and governance
Dates of service: 2015 – 2018
IDinsight service: Landscape review, policy research
IDinsight contacts: Ron Abraham
IDinsight aims to catalyze data-informed discourse and decision-making in the Indian government’s digital identity (Aadhaar) ecosystem through the State of Aadhaar project. We conducted a landscape review, built an interactive website with a comprehensive data portal, and are initiating policy-targeted research on Aadhaar, the world’s largest digital identity programme.
Aadhaar is changing the way Indian residents interact with each other, the modern economy, and the government. Aadhaar’s coverage is increasing rapidly across India, as are the number of Aadhaar use-cases. However, for each use-case—enabling bank account opening, authenticating a cash transfer, or many more—we do not have a clear understanding of the intended and unintended effects.
IDinsight spoke with a diverse range of leaders in government, the private sector, civil society, academia, and think tanks. Stakeholders agreed on the need for more research and data, and provided concrete suggestions on particularly salient evidence gaps.
Interviewees consistently remarked on the need for a comprehensive, empirical, and structured review of the Aadhaar landscape — its architecture, governance, and various uses — to promote a more fact-based understanding of the Aadhaar ecosystem. Such an analysis could identify areas where more evidence is needed to understand whether and how Aadhaar can advance the welfare of India’s residents.
IDinsight designed and conducted a landscape review of Aadhaar, the State of Aadhaar Report 2016-17, which presents an objective and comprehensive overview of the expansive Aadhaar landscape. The report covers Aadhaar’s technological and operational architecture, its legal and governance framework, and its applications in financial inclusion, social protection, and emerging uses in other sectors, such as health, education, and telecommunications.
IDinsight also maintains a website (www.StateofAadhaar.in) which serves as a tool for practitioners and researchers interested in digital identity. The website provides up-to-date information on Aadhaar, including data visualisations, databases on use-cases and literature, and libraries of datasets and official documents related to Aadhaar.
Further, we aim to publish targeted research papers on various aspects of Aadhaar. These papers further our goal of increasing data-informed and evidence-based discourse within the Aadhaar ecosystem.
The engagement is ongoing and continued stakeholder engagement with policymakers may inform state and central government actions on how to use Aadhaar to improve development efforts. Engagement with researchers may also directly lead to new research efforts.