ID, ID management, India, management, UID, UIDAI

An Embarrassing Insubordination – It Takes a Human To Give Coriander an ID

Coriander s/o Pulao, Aadhaar No 499118665246 (DNA India)

Coriander and an apple, as per the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), are residents of India as they have been given an Aadhaar number. And this, perhaps, has been the last straw.

Expressing shock at this, not to mention there having been several complaints of impersonation, the Union home ministry has asked UIDAI to get an internal as well as external security audit done by a third party to fix the lacunae in the enrolment system and avoid any more goof-ups.

OK, let’s get this out of the way. This story is funny and embarrassing. We even had some fun with it in April and May of this year: UID Embarrassment: Vegetable Gets an ID and Take that, Cilantro!.

It is also being blown way out of proportion. Nobody used Coriander’s ID to do anything good or bad.

P Keshav, a Member of Legislative Assembly from the district where the fraud occurred has speculated that the fraud was probably a prank played by someone who wanted to show how casually the process of data collection is done in villages and that the private agencies entrusted with the job have no understanding of the job.

So the hoax was probably an inside job. At the very least it required the complicity of an employee of a trusted entity: one of the companies that facilitates enrollment. Nevertheless, a corrupt official at the DMV issuing false documents doesn’t call the whole drivers license regime into question, and the same is true for UID, but it does encourage policy changes.

The unwanted attention the fraud has brought on the UID enrollment process has led to policy changes that should make the situation better. More attention will be focused on the private operators who charge money to collect enrollments. There’s no reason why the private agency and the employee responsible the fraud couldn’t be sanctioned. In fact, UIDAI probably should institute some sort of performance metric that affects payouts to the private firms based upon data quality, which despite The Coriander Affair, has remained high even as costs have fallen.

It’s important to remember that the management challenge of UID is every bit as difficult as the technical challenge.

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