A National Identity Tool that can aid India's Experiments with the UID

Mexico has implemented the world's largest national identity scheme involving biometrics. As India gets ready to bring in its own Unique IDs, they might want to borrow a leaf from Mexico's experience.

Varsha Chidambaram Mar 12th 2010 A-A+
Summary:

Mexico has implemented the world's largest national identity scheme involving biometrics. As India gets ready to bring in its own Unique IDs, they might want to borrow a leaf from Mexico's experience.

Highlights:

  • The Mexican project will be created and managed by Unisys and will be based on the company’s Library of E-ID Artifacts (LEIDA) software framework.
  • LEIDA combines the biometric data (iris, fingerprint, face) and matches it to arrive at one unique identity

The Mexican Ministry of Internal Affairs has recently initiated a citizen identification solution, using a biometric technology that is believed to be world's first national identity scheme to incorporate iris recognition. The project will create a database with iris, fingerprint and facial biometric data on up to 110 million Mexican citizens to be used as part of the Mexican government's larger national ID card project.

“LEIDA was built to handle large national level volumes. The Mexico citizen identification solution is the largest national level ID project ever to be implemented.

Sounds familiar? The Indian government has been attempting to do something similar for sometime now. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was established in February 2009, with the Interim budget allocating Rs. 100 crore for it. The purpose of the UIDAI is to issue a unique identification number (UID) to all Indian residents to eliminate duplicate and fake identities and to ensure efficient delivery of government services and welfare programs like PDS and NREGA, and for national security.

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In India, an inability to prove identity is one of the biggest barriers preventing the poor from accessing benefits and subsidies. The problem of identity is directly linked to that of corruption leading to fake names and misappropriation of resources. Only a full biometric proof can help circumvent this problem.

The Mexican project will be created and managed by Unisys and will be based on the company's Library of E-ID Artifacts (LEIDA) software framework. Unisys describes LEIDA as "a service-oriented component-based, reusable framework, providing a flexible yet powerful platform for implementing people identity management solutions leveraging biometric technologies."
LEIDA enables implementation of best practices in citizen identity management, access control and secure border initiatives. The fundamental framework for this solution was developed by a team at the Unisys Global Sourcing Centre India (UGSI) in Bangalore and has already been used in national identity schemes in a number of countries globally, such as Australia, Africa and Mexico.
According to John Kendall, National Security Program Director, and Unisys Asia Pacific,"LEIDA brings together best of breed technologies to a platform that is technology-agnostic and interoperable." Kendal has been closely working with biometric identification systems in Australia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, Costa Rica, Panama and Dominican Republic.

LEIDA combines the biometric data (iris, fingerprint, face) and matches it to arrive at one unique identity. Further it de-duplicates it to ensure only a single identity of that combination exists.  Kendall explains, “Part of the de-duplication process is to ensure that all matches are accurate and I don’t end up with a duplicate match.”
LEIDA has fraud detection tools and other security measures built into it. When the system throws up an error the matter is taken up by a human investigation theme. Kendall says, “This is crucial because if the ID system is subject to fraud, it defeats the whole purpose of having one.” The LEIDA platform boasts of a 95 percent accuracy level.

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Kendall knows scalability is going to be the biggest challenge for them. “LEIDA was built to handle large national level volumes. The Mexico citizen identification solution is the largest national level ID project ever to be implemented. So we have the obvious advantage of domain expertise and experience,” he says.
The Mexico project hopes to cover 100 million citizens within the timeframe of 5 months. That’s one-tenth of the Indian population. Would it be realistic to expect the same platform to be viable in India? Unisys is currently engaged in talks with the Indian government to work on the UID. They wish to forge partnership with the leading Indian service providers and begin work on proof-of-concept with small sample groups.