Nandan Nilekani’s UID Card already in Pakistan
By Bala Shah
Last week, the Indian Government announced that it had appointed Infosys co-founder and current co-Chairman, Nandan Nilekani, as Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India. Nandan will be given a Cabinet Rank and a budget of billions of dollars. Nandan has said that he will get the first National ID Cards rolling out in less than 2 years.
Nandan, an IIT graduate and a successful manager has the requisite skills to head any such organization. Whether such a card can be implemented for more than a billion people is a different story. Last but not the least, Nandan is used to working in a professional tech savvy organization like Infosys. Dealing with Indian politicians and babus can wear down the best men and women in our country.
Indians would be surprised to learn that Pakistan already has a public sector managed National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA). NADRA was started to issue computerized national identity cards.
Today, the NADRA tech network is used from everything to getting a passport to even paying utility bills. It has grown to be the largest tech resource in Pakistan employing more than 11 thousand people.
NADRA has already issued 60 million Computerized National Identity Cards and is well on the way to doing the same for the 150 million citizens of Pakistan.
NADRA was also the first to introduce the Multi-biometric E-Passport in the Asian region. It is currently working on a Vehicle Identification and Tracking System (VITS) to reduce the incidence of vehicle theft. NADRA also manages the Automated Border Control System used in Pakistani airports and shipping ports.
NADRA has registration centres around the country and overseas where you can walk in to get photographed to get a National ID card.
NADRA has been so successful that its expertise has been exported to Africa and Middle East.
NADRA was formed on March 10, 2000 by merging a number of Government departments doing similar things. As the NADRA site explains that initially, the main objective was the issuance of state-of-the-art National Identity Cards (NICs) to all eligible citizens of Pakistan. But it has grown to encompass a number of other services.
What are the lessons in this for India? While such a National ID card has many plus points, it takes a huge Government Department to manage such a large database. NADRA has 5 international offices, 400 Pakistani Offices and staff of 11000. The Government should be willing to pay very competitive salaries for database, network and security specialists to give up lucrative private sector careers. And it will be a slow, grinding process in a country the size of India. Last but not the least, many Indian newspapers have reported that such a card will help stop terrorists. Pakistan, which is also facing incessant terror attacks, can testify to the fact that no terrorist would apply for such a national card. In that sense, terror is just being used as an element to sell this card to Indians.