If the task of providing over one billion Indians with unique identification numbers was not tall enough, the unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) is trying to make the identification as foolproof as possible. It is now seeking to register facial features, both iris images, and all 10 fingerprints before issuing the UIDs.
Already the largest such exercise in the world, the task is further complicated by the fact that collecting accurate biometrics is difficult in a densely populated and poorly-equipped country like India. With its lifetime validity and intention to check fraud and impersonation, it is important for the UID authorities to get the details right.
The decision to seek these details was taken after a biometric committee, constituted by the UIDAI under the chairmanship of National Informatics Centre director-general B K Gairola, suggested parameters for biometric details based on best practices followed by other countries.
"UIDAI, after taking all relevant factors into consideration, has decided that three biometric attributes of residents - face, all 10 fingerprints and both iris images - will be collected during the enrolment process into the UID system," an official from New Delhi statement said.
In its report to UIDAI, the biometric committee recommended the standards for face, fingerprint (including minutiae formats) and iris images. The committee, set up last September, analysed the quality of over 2,50,000 fingerprints collected from people in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa by different agencies using different devices and operational processes.
The committee found that an accuracy of only about 95 per cent could be expected from fingerprints alone in India. This is compared to the FBI's integrated automated fingerprint identification system, currently the world's largest biometric database with data of about 50 million people, which has an accuracy of 99 per cent.
Nandan Nilekani, the former Infosys chairman who heads the UIDAI, has said the new ID system will be a ''game-changer''. One of its most important aims is to check the rampant diversion of subsidies and state grants meant for the poor into the pockets of the more rich and powerful.