India adding facial recognition to UID August 1

UIDAI delays introduction of face recognition facility for Aadhaar till August 1 (Hindustan Times)

“The authority in charge of the national identity system had earlier this year announced that it will include face recognition alongside iris or fingerprint scan as a means of verifying users, helping those who face issues in biometric authentication or have worn-out fingerprints…

It is aimed at helping people who face difficulty in biometric authentication due to old age, hardwork or worn-out fingerprints, to authenticate their identity for accessing services, benefits and subsidies.”

It has been a while since we last called attention to India’s UIDAI. Nevertheless, it is very exciting that India is adding facial recognition to its UID toolkit.

A few years ago we posted that in Odisha, a state in eastern India (2014 pop. 43.73 million), there were potentially 1 million true “errors,” or failed enrollments that are potentially valid and are described as those submitted on behalf of “very old people and children (between five to 10 years), whose finger prints and iris scans were not registered properly.”

Moreover, As of May 2015, across India, around 618,000 (0.07%) of UID numbers had been issued with biometric exceptions where UID numbers were issued to individuals who simply could not be enrolled using fingerprint or iris technology.

Adding facial recognition to the UID ecosystem should help bring more people into the system and reduce matching costs for all sorts of verification transactions for everyone due to the ubiquity of mobile cameras versus fingerprint and iris hardware.

Facial recognition seems to have a lot of market momentum at the moment, and because of the sheer size and scope of India’s UID efforts, everything they do produces a trove of data on large-scale biometric deployments.

Facial Recognition System Helps Trace 3,000 Missing Children In 4 Days

The identities of the missing children have been established and efforts are on to help them reunite with their families. (NDTV – India)

“New Delhi: Nearly 3,000 missing children have been traced in four days, thanks to the facial recognition system (FRS) software that the Delhi Police is using on a trial basis to track down such children.

The identities of the missing children have been established and efforts are on to help them reunite with their families.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), in an affidavit to the high court, said that the Delhi Police, on a trial basis, used the FRS on 45,000 children living in different children’s homes. Of them, 2,930 children could be recognised between April 6 and April 10.”

A heartwarming story with a dose of local politics.

India: Biometrics for financial inclusion

Financial inclusion and women empowerment (Economic Times)

In 2014, the Bhamashah initiative was refurbished with a broader coverage of gender empowerment, financial inclusion and family-based benefits. It now provides end-to-end delivery system for individuals and various family-based benefits of the government’s social welfare schemes — like the PDS, pension funds, health insurance, MNREGA and scholarships — through a centralised e-government platform by leveraging the enhanced electronic infrastructure of the state.

These transfers are made to the bank account of the woman of the house through the Bhamashah smart card, which also provides biometric identification of family members. The card is also a co-branded debit card with the participation of several banks.

The merits of financial inclusion are deeply rooted in citizen empowerment. Access to credit is a critical link between economic opportunities and outcomes. By empowering individuals and families to cultivate economic opportunities, financial inclusion can be a powerful agent for strong and inclusive growth. With women constituting half the population, their equal participation in society is imperative for sustainable development.

No wonder this man is smiling.
Amartya Sen

One of the important assertions Amartya Sen makes in “Development as Freedom” is that empowering women in developing countries through education and financial inclusion is a tried-and-true way toward economic development for a country as a whole.

He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998 for his contributions to welfare economics.

Biometric technologies can help make inclusion programs more efficient and more affordable.

India: Biometric verification required for student ID and attendance

Biometric attendance must for jr colleges (Pune Mirror)

“We have made biometric attendance mandatory for all junior colleges. This will also let us compare statistics of students opting for specific colleges and give us data about students admitted to that college under the centralised admission process. While this system will leave no room for bogus admission at any city college, it would also make students serious about attending their lectures. Their casual attitude regarding college will change,” said Ramchandra Jadhav, DyDE.

A large potion of that educational institutions must do revolves around identity management.

Not a bug, but a feature

Massive errors mar Aadhaar enrolment (Times of India)

The enrolment process for Aadhaar in Odisha is dogged by massive rejection of data due to errors. According to the directorate of census operations here, enrolled biometric data of 40 lakh people stand rejected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the Aadhaar body, as on June 15.

Some facts:
Odisha is a state in eastern India. The wiki has its population at 43.73 million as of 2014.
1 lakh = 100,000
1 crore = 10,000,000
All numbers not quoted from the article are in more familiar units.

The article goes on to say a lot about the numbers. 31,700,000 out of 38,400,000 people (82%) of the eligible population have been registered successfully.

The 4 million rejected applications are divided as follows.

2 million were rejected because they were submitted by operators who have been barred from submitting applications. UID works by outsourcing enrollment to private operators who are then paid by the government for accepted applications. Operators who have submitted too many error-riddled or fraudulent applications have been banned from the market.

1 million have been rejected for being duplicate applications, as is proper.

That leaves 1 million true “errors,” or failed enrollments that are potentially valid and are described as those submitted on behalf of “very old people and children (between five to 10 years), whose finger prints and iris scans were not registered properly.” Now, it may turn out that some of these failed enrollments are duplicate applications as well and it will probably turn out that many (if not most) of these people can be enrolled on a second pass where extra care is taken during the enrollment process. Nevertheless describing 1 million failed enrollments out of 32.7 million presumably legitimate applications as “massive errors” seems uncharitable.

Also, UID contains a “Biometric Exception Clause” which allows for creating UID numbers for people whose biometrics cannot be enrolled. As of May 2015, across India, around 618,000 (0.07%) of UID numbers have been issued with biometric exceptions.

India: Income tax department sees value in UID

I-T department exploring ways to seed PAN with Aadhaar (Live Mint)

The income tax department is exploring ways to hasten the pace of seeding permanent account number, or PAN, with the unique identity number Aadhaar, a move that will weed out duplicate PANs and help the government’s drive against tax evaders.

This would allow the Income Tax Department to maintain its own ID numbering system for its own purposes — they may tax entities such as corporations that don’t have biometrics, after all — while harnessing Aadhaar for detecting tax fraud among individuals.

India UID: Interesting de-duplication and exception stats

Over 9 crore Aadhaar enrolments rejected by UIDAI (Zee News)

Out of 823.3 million enrollments, 97.3 million (Approx. 12%) have been rejected for reasons of either quality or duplication.

This may seem to be high to some, or low to others. In the big picture, there is (or should be!) a cost-benefit analysis at the beginning of the project that gets at the expense of the process vs. the infallibility of the process. On the first pass, it might make sense to get the highest proportion of good enrollments with the most convenient process, then to engage in a more expensive enrollment process applied only to more difficult enrollments.

It’s also important to note that the 97.3 million rejected enrollments contain both duplicate applications, which must be rejected and other applications where clerical error, fraud, or un-enrollable biometrics are the reason for rejection.

Another interesting statistic in the article is that only about 618,000 UID numbers have been issued under the “Biometric Exception Clause” which allows for creating UID numbers for people whose biometrics cannot be enrolled. That comes out to around 0.07%.

What that means is that (depending on the number of people waiting for a biometric exception) using a data set approaching a billion individuals, at least 99.3% of the population of India is biometrically enrollable within the existing UID enrollment process.

Note: The article uses the Indian numbering units crore and lakh.

1 crore = 10,000,000
1 lakh = 100,000

See also: UID applications without biometrics highly likely fraudulent

Biometrics a factor in World Bank’s optimism on India

While India’s Economy has Turned the Corner, Wider Reforms are Needed to Boost Economic Growth (World Bank)

The report points out that India’s government has begun to implement reforms to unlock the country’s investment potential – to improve the business environment; liberalize FDI; boost both public and private investment in infrastructure; quickly resolve corporate disputes; simplify taxation, and lower corporate taxes. States are set to receive more resources and spending power, and the government has reiterated its resolve to implement the GST by April, 2016, a move that is widely expected to meaningfully increase India’s tax to GDP ratio. New models of delivering benefits through direct transfers to bank accounts, together with the biometric identification of beneficiaries, are expected to reduce leakages.

India: UID milestone

Aadhaar world’s largest biometric ID system (Times of India)

The Aadhaar card has emerged as probably the world’s largest biometric identification programmes in the world with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issuing nearly 82 crore cards.

1 crore = 10,000,000

We haven’t been spending as much time on issues of economic development as we have at other times in the past, but India’s major ID initiatives are creating a lot of opportunities to lift millions out of poverty.

India: Using biometrics to protect vulnerable children

Aadhaar goes to orphanages, joins war on child trafficking (Bangalore Mirror)

Aadhaar’s comprehensive database that comprises iris (retina scan) and biometric (fingerprint) information is hoped to aid enforcement agencies find missing children, curb human trafficking and check illegal adoptions. Aadhaar enrolments have begun in Karnataka for children in child care institutes run by the state government’s Department of Women and Child Development. Nearly 4,000 kids and youngsters are in care of state homes and will get identity cards.

A couple of notes:

Aadhaar means “foundation.” An alternate name for the Aadhaar Project is the UID Project for Universal ID.

In the quoted passage above, “child care institutes” are orphanages rather than the child care centers some readers may be more familiar with.

Security and Service

Concerns raised over mandatory fingerprinting for India visas (Travel Weekly)

The High Commission of India states on its website that, after outsourcing the process to a company called VFS, all applicants will need to be physically present at India Visa and Consular Services centres to submit an application and biometric data.

It says: “Biometric data collection, including fingerprint data and facial imagery will be a mandatory requirement for all visa applicants soon. As a result, all visa applicants will need to first apply online and, thereafter, be physically present (mandatorily) at India Visa and Consular Services centres, by appointment, for submission of visa application and biometric data enrolment.”

All security applications must strike a balance between the effectiveness of the security measures and the needs of the entity seeking enhanced security. As anyone who has ever seen a waste basket propping open an office door could tell you, better security usually requires sacrifices to efficiency. More security with more convenience is a tall order.

The article linked above highlights a case where the enhanced security of biometric visas for travelers to India from the UK has made the visa application process more complex and time consuming. In one sense, it’s bound to. Collecting more information takes more time. In the India visa case, however, it is taking a whole lot more time. So much more that people involved in Indian tourism are growing worried.

The unfortunate irony is that their ability to increase security and convenience at the same time is one of the things that make biometrics such a disruptive technology.

India: What happens with lost UID numbers?

UIDAI devises a method to retrieve lost Aadhaar numbers (Business Standard)

A government official said as a person can only enrol for Aadhaar once, there needed to be a mechanism to retrace the number in case the person has misplaced all possible links to it.

“Enrolling again is not an option, as the system automatically rejects biometric details that have been registered once,” said the official.

Under the new method, a person can put in the biometrics and the system will keep prompting for more demographic details till the back-end server zeros down to 10 possible matches.

During the entire process, none of the details of the Aadhaar holders will be shown to the person or the operator till the time an exact match has been found.

This has been done keeping in mind the design of the Aadhaar project, where the system doesn’t reveal any information about the resident and only tries to authenticate the identity replying with a yes or no.

India: Iris to replace thumb print for pensioner verification in one district

‘Iris recognition system’ for pensions to be launched in Andhra Pradesh (Niti Central)

A biometric ‘Iris identification system’ for distribution of pension will be soon launched in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.

At present, the pensions are being paid by taking a thumb impression of the pensioners, Krishna District Collector A Babu said in an official release. However, sometimes the illegible thumb impressions create problems, he said.

This is perhaps the first time I’ve seen one biometric modality displace another one in an existing ID management application.

The performance expectations for iris must be substantially higher than what the existing fingerprint system is producing because it looks like there will have to be a new enrollment process for pensioners in the 100 political villages and municipal wards undertaking the change.

India: News from the UID hackathon

Codes fly thick and fast in first Aadhaar Hackathon (Economic Times)

A slew of initiatives, including financial support to Aadhaar-based companies, were announced at country’s first hackathon, dedicated to innovating on the Aadhaar platform. The 24-hour marathon coding competition, conducted by incubator Khosla Labs and Nasscom, also announced an appstore dedicated to such applications, to be launched by the end of this month.

Cool!

India linking UID to voter rolls

India: EC to check bogus voting, link Aadhaar with electoral rolls (Hindustan Times)

“We keep getting complaints of bogus and duplicate votes. One of the best ways to ensure that a person votes only once in the country is to link electoral rolls with Aadhaar numbers. It will be a very tedious and time-consuming exercise and we can start it only when elections are over,” Delhi’s chief electoral officer Vijay Dev said.

“We will organise special camps for people to first enrol for Aadhaar and then for the electoral rolls, especially in areas where the enrolment for both Aadhaar and voter card is extremely low. We will tie up with the district administration for this,” Dev said.

Former chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal had complained to the CEO that fake votes were allegedly being cast in different constituencies. The electoral office also stumbled upon some names in the electoral rolls, pointing towards a bigger racket.

India using biometrics to streamline government interactions with citizens

Technology Can Surely Help Reduce Hardships (The New Indian Express)

Prime minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched the “Jeevan Pramaan” project, a digital version of the “life certificate” scheme that could eventually benefit 10 million claimants. The biometric-based software means pensioners will now no longer have to visit banks every year to give proof of their being alive to continue receiving benefits. Around 50 lakh people draw pension from the central government, and an equal number from state and UT governments. Several PSUs also provide pensions, and over 25 lakh retirees draw pensions from the armed forces. The software will be made available to pensioners and other stakeholders on a large scale at no extra cost. It can be operated on a personal computer or smartphone, along with an “inexpensive” biometric reading device.

For thousands of years, more security meant less convenience. Biometric technologies have the power to change that.

India: Biometrics for pensioner proof of life

PM Modi launches digital life certificate ‘Jeevan Pramaan’ for pensioners (Yahoo)

The proposed digital certification will do away with the requirement of a pensioner having to submit a physical ‘life certificate’ in November each year, in order to ensure continuity of pension being credited into his account. The Department of Electronics and IT has developed a software application which will enable the recording of the pensioner’s Aadhar number and biometric details from his mobile device or computer, by plugging in a biometric reading device.

The earlier requirement entailed that a pensioner either personally presents himself before the Pension Disbursing Agency, or submits a Life Certificate issued by authorities specified by the Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO).

This application sounds like a real benefit to everyone. The pension can be more assured that it isn’t making payments to the deceased and pensioners and/or their care-givers save a trip to the “prove you’re alive” office.

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