Modi's Mobile Gamechanger
Modi's Mobile Gamechanger
Economic Times reports that Your smartphone may become a gamechanger for India's public policy, becoming a one-stop instrument for instant identity authentication that will allow you to receive all government services that work on the Aadhaar platform. A meeting on Wednesday between Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive officer of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which administers Aadhaar, and senior executives of smartphone-makers Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft and Micromax, and product software think tank iSPIRT, discussed ways to make mobile phone handsets Aadhaar-enabled.
Pandey told ET the initial response of smartphone company executives was "positive" and they said they will have to consult their headquarters before taking the idea further. Here's UIDAI's idea: chips of Aadhaar-enabled smartphones will be encrypted with a UIDAI key and the phones will be connected to the Aadhaar server. The key is a security feature to prevent information leakage. The server connection will allow instant fingerprint and iris authentication. Some high-end smartphones already have fingerprint and iris recognition technology embedded in their operating system. The technology bar for putting these features in smartphones is not high — most smartphones can be equipped similarly.
"This can be a game-changing feature in phones to become the identity of a person and let him do more transactions on the phone in a secure manner. This is perhaps the first time something like this will be attempted in the world," the UIDAI CEO told ET. Microsoft and Micromax declined to comment. Apple and Google didn't respond to ET's questions. A Samsung India spokesperson said the company is the only phone-maker to have already embedded Aadhaar-friendly technology in one of its handsets. Pandey explained the rationale behind the idea in detail: "Nearly 104 crore Indians have Aadhaar and almost 40 crore have smartphones. Every agency requires authentication via Aadhaar. If people don't need to go to any office to authenticate their identity and get government services, and if they are able to do so through their mobile phones, this can be the big gamechanger," he said. Business opportunity Pandey also said smartphone-makers should see Aadhaar-friendly instruments as a business opportunity, just as GPS-enabled phones were.
As Aadhaar takes deeper hold as the interface between Indians and their governments, at the Centre and in states, and as smartphone sales go up, handsets that offer this facility will be an attractive consumer proposition, the UIDAI CEO said. Samsung India told ET: "Galaxy Tab Iris will support government benefit programmes and enable banks and financial institutions to streamline the process of an individual's authentication, regardless of language and literacy barriers." There are, however, a few issues to be sorted out before Aadhaar-enabled phones become a viable proposition for manufacturers. A smartphone industry executive, who did not wish to be identified, said companies running operating systems such as iOS (Apple) and Android (Google) may have worries over sending fingerprint and iris data over "unsecure" networks, raising privacy issues. Apple is known to be extremely reluctant about opening up its operating system to any external system.
The UIDAI CEO told ET the solution is a "registered device". He said the biometric information can get encrypted by a UIDAI key at the chip level in phones, making it impossible for anyone but the Aadhaar server to see the information. Such encryption will ensure the information can't be decrypted and reused. "We have explained this to phone manufacturers," Pandey said. He also said UIDAI can address other concerns about privacy since the authority has ensured full privacy and security of personal biometric information of 104 crore citizens. He said laptops used for capturing biometric information have an Aadhaar key that encrypts the information, and there has been no leakage of information.