Aadhaar Gains Global Popularity, Russia & Morocco Follow Suit

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India’s biometrics-based identification system Aadhaar is gaining popularity globally with countries like Russia, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia showing interest in adopting the model. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has enrolled more than 1 billion people under the Aadhaar scheme, about five-and-a-half years after the programme was launched.

 The department of IT, Ministry of External Affairs and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma, are part of an effort to promote the Aadhaar model overseas.

R.S. Sharma, who served as UIDAI Director-General from 2009-13, recently addressed a seminar on financial inclusion in Russia. After returning t India, he said in an interview that, “Morocco wants to do what India has done in the space. On India’s recommendation, Morocco has included provisions for biometric identification and authentication in its proposed national population register (NPR).” “They seem to have changed their strategy and approach, now more aligned with the UID project of India,” he added.

 Morocco’s attempt to reform its system of identification is being facilitated by the World Bank and the country envisions giving each citizen a unique identification number and developing an NPR covering its entire population.

The Indian government has made Aadhaar the pivot for delivering subsidies and other social welfare benefits directly to the people by transferring cash to their bank accounts, seeking to cut out middlemen and curb leakages. Aadhaar is also observed as a key element in India’s move towards a cashless economy.

However, the journey for Aadhaar hasn’t been smooth enough. Privacy rights activists have raised questions that data gathered by the system, which uses biometric information based on fingerprints and iris scans, may be abused.

TRAI’s Sharma said the Bank of Russia, which is like the Reserve Bank of India, has conceived of an identification project based on biometric information. He added that the World Bank also wants to roll out similar projects in Algeria and Tunisia.

The World Bank said Aadhaar was worthy of replication by other countries, calling it an example of technology leading to economic transformation.

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