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June 14, 2010

Building The World's Largest Biometric Database

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

India's business IT weekly journal, Express Computer, recently printed a quite lengthy piece by Subhankar Kundu, discussing the UIDAI project in India.
According to Kundu, the Unique Identification project is "undoubtedly among the biggest e-governance projects that the Government of India has taken up. Its mandate is nothing less than to issue a unique identification number to every resident in the country."
Kundu is being polite when he notes "it's not an easy task for largely unorganized state administrative departments to gather such an exhaustive volume of data" such as what UID calls for: "The project aims at creating a platform that will collect the identity details of every resident of India and subsequently perform identity authentication so that the UIC created can be used by government and commercial service providers."
With the first set of UIDs slated to be issued between August 2010 and February 2011, UIDAI seems to be speeding up the process of roll-outs. Nandan Nilekani, the head of this project, said, "I expect the first set of UIDs will be rolled out between August 2010 and February 2011… but it is all at the PowerPoint presentation stage now."
UIDAI has selected biometrics as the primary mechanism to check for duplicate identities "that have plagued India for a long time now." Nilekani says "it will be the biggest biometric data base that has ever been made."
In January 2010, UIDAI invited bids floating the request for proposal for design, development, testing, integration, support and maintenance of UID application software.
"Training players like NIIT and Aptech are in the race to win the training tender announced by the authority to train enrolling agents," the hundreds and hundreds required across major cities in the country over the next four years.
During a recent visit to Bangalore at Microsoft (News - Alert) Research India's annual research symposium, Nilekani hinted at Microsoft Research's participation in the research and development activities of UID, Kundu wrote.
Nilekani said "I am looking forward to work with researchers on technologies like multi-lingual computing and biometrics. Microsoft, having such a strong commitment on research, can definitely help in the UIDAI project."
He indicated that Microsoft Research would be taking active part in implementing this project.

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David's articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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