♦ India's bureaucracies aren't able to serve the needs of Indians because of an accountability black hole.
♦ A more rigorous ID scheme will increase accountability and deliver better results to citizens.
♦ Implementing the ID scheme depends on the bureaucracies (see statement 1).
Thankfully, the last statement isn't quite true. If true, it dooms the UID project on the bases of both bureaucratic will and ability. There must be many bureaucrats invested in the status quo that would love to see the UID project fail, and the UID load will be difficult for some bureaucracies to bear.
If you didn't click through yet, the above-linked article informs readers that the post office is currently falling short on its responsibility to print and deliver UID numbers. It is meeting only fifteen percent of the daily demand for its services, so it's not so much falling short as utterly failing.
But if the post office was a model of efficiency, might that call into question the whole reason for UID in the first place?
From the article...
To end the delay, the UIDAI has decided that another government body, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) will print Aadhaar letters and supply it to postal department for mailing them to residents.And there's the way out of the catch-22. Create competition for the post office. I suspect that none of these contingency plans were made up on the fly*. UIDAI knew it would have to use the post office and knew it would fail. There probably isn't a private entity in India that can displace the post office entirely, but competition among government entities is better than no competition at all and UID is also entering that competition directly by communicating numbers directly to individuals who have access to the internet.
“TCIL will be printing minimum of about seven to 10 lakh [ed. 700,000 to 1 million!] Aadhaar cards in a day,” a UIDAI official said. In addition to their Mumbai facility, TCIL would be setting up two more printing units to meet the demand.
The UIDAI will also be providing an alternative platform to receive Aadhaar letters --- download from its website within month of enrolment.
In the final accounting, UID is not about biometrics at all. Biometrics is a means to better ID management. Better ID management is a means to bring greater transparency and accountability to nearly every aspect of how the government goes about its allocated tasks. Is it any wonder it has so many enemies?
Identity management is about people; the challenges of UID are and will be as much managerial as technical.
*Just having the right technology is not sufficient to roll out a project on this scale. “What we need to do is create an appropriate ecosystem,” said Nilekani. In short, getting the incentives right for all those involved in the project."
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