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.

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 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: 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: 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.

More on India’s public employees time-and-attendance portal

Big Brother Modi is watching bureaucrats (Reuters)

“This is Big Brother stuff but very effective. It’s not just the central government. The state governments are trying to emulate this.”

The Prime Minister’s Office will also take part in the scheme, said Dash, although it was not clear whether Modi would be enrolled.

Project mastermind Sharma, who holds the rank of secretary at the government’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology, could not immediately be reached for comment. The Biometric Attendance System showed he had signed in at work at 13:55:16 p.m. on Thursday.

Screen grab: attendance.gov.in

Meet the man who built the awesome online attendance system for India’s government officials (Quartz India)

Now, 59-year old Sharma is building an attendance system for India’s central government employees that is inexpensive, publicly available on the internet—and potentially, a simple tool that could revolutionise governance in the country.

The entire system is searchable, down to the names of individual central government employees, and all the data is available for download. And with that single step—making the entire platform publicly accessible—the government has introduced a level of accountability and transparency that India’s sprawling bureaucracy is unaccustomed to.

Private companies to help populate TSA traveler biometric database

US airports to introduce new online biometric screening technologies (Companies and Markets)

The United States Transportation Security Administration has announced its plans to allow private companies to enrol passengers for expedited screening at airports.

The initiative, known as PreCheck, will allow US citizens to go through an online pre-enrollment process by providing biometric information.

This reminds me of India’s UID system where private companies populate government databases. India had some trouble with this arrangement partly due to the way revenues flowed. In India the government payed companies to enroll people (many without ID’s) in UID. Some unscrupulous agents there were signing up vegetables and getting paid for it.

Presumably, because the TSA system will involve people who already have a verified identity and the customer will be footing the bill, the opportunity for that type of graft won’t be there.

After further review…

India’s biometric ID project is back on track (PC World)

The new Indian government has indicated strong support for a controversial project to require residents to have biometric IDs in order to collect government benefits, setting a target of 1 billion enrollments by 2015.

The status of the project was in doubt when a new federal government was voted in last May, as the winning Bharatiya Janata Party had said during the election campaign that it would review the program. The new target signals the new government’s backing of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which was largely seen as a project of the previous government led by the Congress party.

India: UID in the news

Manipur

Over 10 lakhs enrolled for Aadhar cards in Manipur (E-PAO)
10 lakhs = 1 million
Manipur is a state in northeastern India.

Also…

Aadhaar may be linked with Jan Dhan scheme (Hindustan Times)

The Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, aimed at opening bank accounts for the poor, also provides for accident insurance cover of ` 1 lakh, medical insurance of `30,000 with a free debit card for those who open accounts before January 26, 2015.

This ambitious scheme of had another dimension — the possibility of the poor opening fake bank accounts to claim the benefits. To prevent that from happening, the 12-digit biometric-based unique identification number can play an important role.

From a Times of India blog…

Don’t junk Aadhaar: It will help NDA government achieve its goals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has struck the right note by stepping in quickly to clear the confusion on Aadhaar cards and asking to scale up enrollments to 100 crore people over a short period. This will help the government accelerate direct benefit transfers to the poor, reduce leakages and bring down the fiscal deficit.

It looks like India’s new government is giving UID some room to run. 100 crore is a billion people.

See also:
Aadhaar, DBT get a lifeline, Modi to retain, push UPA schemes

Putting to rest speculation about the fate of the UPA government’s flagship Aadhaar project and the Direct Benefits Transfer scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday sought a 100-crore enrolment target under Aadhaar at the “earliest”, also asking officials to look into linking passports with its data.

This is big news indeed.

India: Latest in NPR v UID

Tug of war over Aadhaar slowing its progress (Hindustan Times)

Three NDA ministries are trying to pull the UPA’s signature project, Aadhaar, in different directions, threatening to further slow down the plan to give all residents a unique identity number (UID).

We discussed the root philosophical differences inherent in the two ID systems here in How Much Fraud is Acceptable in NPR, UID where we observed that:

Bringing full citizenship rights to poor, illiterate landless Indians brings with it a near-certainty that full citizenship rights will be conferred upon some number of poor, illiterate, landless non-Indians living in India.

If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to read the whole thing.

Also, the India, UID and NPR labels in the footer of this post call up a lot of in-depth analysis of what’s going on with the most ambitious ID project ever conceived.

India’s UID project is reeling

Aadhaar enrolment procedure suffers setback, agencies halt the process (Economic Times)

It appears that the entities that collect enrollments and then charge the government for them are uniting to resist requirements that they do their job better. It’s also worth recalling that some of these agencies have behaved quite badly and at least one has been willing to create enrollments for vegetables, so standards could probably be higher.

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