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State of Aadhaar Initiative

IDinsight conceptualised the State of Aadhaar initiative in 2016 and authored two annual reports: 2016-17 and 2017-18. We generated data-driven insights on the Indian government’s digital identity platform (Aadhaar) to help promote data-informed discourse on the topic.

An IDinsight officer interviews a community member in West Bengal on her experiences with Aadhaar.

State of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 - 6 MB

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State of Aadhaar Report 2016-17 - 6 MB

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Decision-maker’s challenge

More than a billion people in India have an Aadhaar number, a biometrically enabled unique digital identity. Aadhaar’s scale has caught the attention of policymakers globally. Its scale, ability to uniquely identify individuals and digital interface make it a compelling identification platform. However, these same features also raise questions about privacy, data security, and exclusion. The debate on Aadhaar had been binary in nature: some felt Aadhaar should be jettisoned, while others felt it should be scaled aggressively. A systematic, multi-disciplinary, and large-scale research effort is critical to building a meaningful understanding of whether, where, and how Aadhaar might advance the public good. 

Impact opportunity

Aadhaar is the world’s largest digital identity programme implemented by India’s national government. With a handful of exceptions, most Indian states have enrolled more than 80 percent of their residents.

Our approach

Generating insights

IDinsight conducted primary and secondary research to generate key insights and a comprehensive understanding of the Aadhaar landscape.

Promoting data-driven discourse

Using insights from our research, our team created tailored content for a targeted audience of policymakers and researchers to promote data-driven discourse on Aadhaar. We held 26 research seminars and one-on-one meetings with policymakers to discuss and debate our analysis. We also maintained an active social media presence to disseminate our results (our tweets were viewed over 600,000 times). We built and maintained a website that served as a tool for practitioners and researchers interested in digital identity. It provided up-to-date information on Aadhaar, including data visualisations, databases on use-cases and literature, and libraries of datasets and official documents. This website received over 22,000 unique page views. Our reports were shared in Hindi and English with all parliamentarians as well.

The results


Through this initiative, we have shared our research – and our data-driven approach – with thousands of policymakers, practitioners, and researchers. In the midst of the years’ Supreme Court cases and the introduction of various legislation, our team promoted a careful and case-by-case evaluation of Aadhaar’s applications using objective data and evidence.

IDinsight also supported the Indian School of Business and Omidyar Network set up the Digital Identity Research Initiative to generate ongoing evidence on the role of digital identity in the Indian and global economy.

Key results from SOAR 2016-17

The State-of-Aadhaar-Report_2016-2017 builds exclusively on secondary research and is based on official reports and public data portals. These sources include reports and data portals from the central and state governments and their various departments, the Parliament of India, the Supreme Court and High Courts, and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.

Key results from SOAR 2017-18

Based on a large three-state independent survey conducted on Aadhaar, State of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 shed light on rural users’ interactions and experiences with Aadhaar across three states: Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal.

Additional resources for SOAR 2017-18



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