Aadhaar Applications: A Developer’s Dream Come True

  1. The importance of digital India

India is constructing a new  technology foundation for serving her citizens .  It is called digital India.  It is a work in progress, however some of its components have already become alive and started serving the populace.  While new cloud based systems are being built to realize Digital India  goals, the government is also working towards integrating existing legacy e-governance systems with it.   When completed Digital India will provide a platform for government to deliver citizen services  and citizens to access them from anywhere and always. Digital India  enable government to reach out to residents individually using a unique identity infrastructure called Aadhaar and reach directly using a trinity called  JAM ( Jan Dhan – a bank account linked to resident’s Aadhaar and Mobile).

  1. Three perspectives of Digital India

Originally Aadhaar had only one fundamental objective: develop a channel to deliver government benefits such as subsidies directly to the beneficiary  and thereby avoid the traditional channels involving many middle-men and leakages thereof and duplicates. However when the job was handed down to team for architecting and designing  it, they made it much bigger than that.

  • Aadhaar met its fundamental objective of connecting government and its residents directly ( DBT)  very successfully,
  • At the same the resulting Aadhaar infrastructure has become new personal space for each resident to receive government issued  documents, upload personal documents and e-sign them  and  share them with others selectively.
  • Finally  with its huge data content covering already billion people and expected grow in tune with population growth and its inherent open access provisions- such as open API-  it has become a programmer’s paradise and developers dream comes true.
  1. The Anatomy of Digital India

Digital India foundation is  a layered bedrock on which every government service is being built and delivered. Some of the layers are already functional.  Here is the list of layers and their fundamental purposes

Presence-less layer: The bottom most layer of this foundation is Aadhaar and e-KYC . This layer is used to provide a unique  identity to each of her residents. And this unique identification comes in the form  a 12 digit number. The Aadhaar document of a resident holds biometric and demographic data about him/her. This data is stored electronically and there are provisions to authenticate  it online.  This is called presence-less verification and authentication.

Paper-less layer . It consists of  e-sign and Digilocker. It provides a cloud-based document storage system called digilocker. This is used by government agencies to issues documents in digital format directly to residents into their DigiLocker account.  E-sign component enables resident to authenticate his/her documents by appending a digital signature. This helps resident to share her documents and conduct transactions with institutions  such as bank or agencies

Cashless layer is the third in the Aadhaar infrasturure . It is a unified payment interface. It acts as a single interface to all interconnected payment platforms

Consent layer also called Digital Right interface provides consent enabled data sharing framework for residents

  1. Digital India Realities

4.1 Digital India is a new national infrastructure:  The scope of  digital India initiative is all inclusive. Every resident, every institution is included in that. For instance the paper-less layer encourages resident to store and share documents electronically. It also mandates agencies to issue and access documents directly  to and from the resident’s digilocker account.

4.2 Digital India is a channel for citizen service delivery: The Indian Government is making all efforts to harness the Digital India foundation to deliver its citizen services. For instances direct benefit transfer ensures that government subsidies are delivered directly to the beneficiary.  For instance, every a resident who buys a gas cylinder, LPG subsidy is transferred to her bank account in a cashless transaction. However the resident’s bank account is  already linked to her Aadhaar card and mobile.

4.3 Digital India is a new habitat for Indian residents:  One of the fundamental objective of Digital India initiative is to empower people and transform nation into knowledge economy. Much of the population is already covered by Aadhaar and soon every resident will be onboarded onto Aadhaar platform. This means every resident is identifiable,accessible and reachable by government agencies and business as well.

4.4 Digital is open  system and its resources are accessible to all:  Open systems are the major trend in many of contemporary technology landscape. For instance mobile phones are portable among service providers. When system is open, the chances of its use increases in many ways. Fortunately for us, the Aadhaar infrastructure has been designed to be open from  bottom-up. It was meant to be used by many government department and agencies. Hence the Aadhaar infrastructure, resources and data are portable among many systems. In fact government has it mandated that every thing about Aadhaar strictly follows its Open API. policy. Now  government has extended this to outsiders such as business and others, it has become a boon for developers

Under the digital India initiative , the government has mandated an Open API policy for five key programmes, meaning data from these programmes must be made accessible for similar creative development.  The five programmes are Aadhaar, e-KYC ( know your customer), e-sign (a mechanism for digitally signing documents that is legally accepted), consent-layer (proposed privacy-protected data sharing) and Unified Payment Interface (UPI), an initiative by the National payments Corporation of India which will allow fund transfer between banks with the help of a single identifier

4.5 Digital India is a layered structure and each layer has a fundamental purpose: The Aadhaar infrastructure is layered and each layer has a specific purpose. Aadhaar and E-KYC (presence-less authentication), E-Sign and DigiLcoker (paper-less ) unified payment interface (UPI) cashless transactions and Consented layer

4.6  Digital India is new ecosystem for developers:  Aadhaar’s layered  structure combined with Open API policy makes it an ideal platform for developers. The layered approach helps developers to focus one or more layers and develop products and services on those layers depending on their competence and specialization. The Open API access provides them resources for product and services development

4.7 Digital India removes friction cost almost to zero:  By combining the services of Aadhaar, e-kyc and unified payment interface many new ways of services can be composed. For instance, it is possible for a vegetable vendor to borrow a loan of few hundred rupees from a bank in the morning and repay the same at the end of the day.  This is made possible by combining Aadhaar, e-KYC and UPI.

4.8 Digital India reduces new customer acquisition dramatically:  According to  mutual industry, today it approximately costs about Rs. 1500 to acquire a new customer. The cost of acquisition is high because the front-end is cumbersome, agent needs in-person verification for “ know your customer” (KYC), customer need to make a “wet’ signature. Now with the advent of Aadhaar- it provides you basic identity and you have online authentication for presence-less verification. E-kyc , e-sign allows you to do digital signature with Aadhaar and along with the DigiLocker, allows you to go paperless , and  with the upcoming UPI (unified payment interface) that allows interoperable mobile payments, enables  customer to go cashless. Thus once a business can on board a customer without the traditional front-end methods -the cost of acquiring a customer plunge dramatically. This would increase the number of potential customers a business can target exponentially.,

Aadhaar e-KYC can make new mobile connection cost zero If you are taking a mobile connection, currently the cost of activation of a mobile customer is Rs 150 because you have to fill a customer acquisition form (CAF), you have to give paper documents… if you use digital identity authentication, you can fill the customer form, digitally sign it and get your electronic KYC. So, essentially the cost is equal to zero,

4.9 Digital India through  Aadhaar can identify each of billion people uniquely

Digital India through Aadhaar and DigiLocker enables resident to receive government documents electronically , upload store and share documents securely.

In summary the Aadhaar infrastructure is becoming a new Gateway to India and its population.

  1.  Aadhaar Applications: Developer’s Dream Come True

5.1 Aadhaar Platform

Aadhaar is designed bottom up as a platform for both government applications as well as innovation applications from diverse developers.

o   Aadhaar platform is built on a robust technology that rides on mobile connectivity and enables ubiquity. It offers a great opportunity to its stakeholders- the emerging community of technology developers to offer a variety of user experience in various fields.

o   The Aadhaar platform provides authentication and e-KYC services in respect of over a billion Aadhaar holders, on a real-time basis. The online authentication as well as the electronic KYC capability has the potential to put India at the forefront of service delivery transformation.

o   Not only this verification service unprecedented in the world, there comes infinite possibilities of its usage by central and state government agencies , enterprises and other institutions to deliver benefits, services and products at national levels instantaneously.

o  Aadhaar APIs such as Biometric Authentication, Biometric eKYC, demographic Authentication, OTP Authentication and OTP e-KYC are open to developers. Both biometric Authentication and Biometric e-KYC require approved biometric sensors.

Aadhaar is being built by government. Its intended users at least in the initial phases are government departments and agencies. Hence government departments were the early adopters and they have used it successfully. Some of the very successful applications of Aadhaar include LPG subsidy delivery, e-KYC and Digilocker and more.  Even state governments have developed Aadhaar applications for their users.

One illustration comes from Maharashtra which has developed application for change of name using Aadhaar. This application has brought down the time it takes to change name to few hours. Earlier it used to take  four months.

However with greater awareness of Aadhaar architecture and open accessibility of resources through Open API policy is attracting developers to consider it as a compelling development platform. Now developers can build applications for business use and more importantly products and services can be built around Aadhaar infrastructure and can be offered to public and other enterprise.

5.2 Developers

o   The architecture of Aadhaar makes it an enabler not only benefits administrations, but also fundamental infrastructure for the future of any and all services in the country.

o   Developers can look at building compelling applications that leverage the Aadhaar platform.

o   The developer community need to be encouraged to promote the development of applications that utilize the open Aadhaar APIs. Some of the key areas that lend themselves to build products are: Government benefits, Financial services ( banking, insurance and brokerage), payments, Healthcare, FMCG and online +  offline(O2O)

o   Developers can build on the identity infrastructure and create applications in areas like business education, healthcare and payments

  1.  Aadhaar enabled Application: State of Art

Now we shall consider how start-ups and innovators are building Aadhaar enabled services and unleashing a new entrepreneurial wave.

Developers can build on the identity infrastructure ( Aadhaar, e-KYC)  and create applications in areas like business education, healthcare and payments. The e-KYC service will allow one to authorize service providers to receive electronic copy of their identity proof and address. This will allow instant and paperless verification of of one’s identity and address. Using this service will allow sharing of demographic information including name, address, DOB, gender, photograph and mobile number this was collected during enrollment.

6.1.1 Example : Gurgaon-based startup AuthBridge has partnered with Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the income tax department to provide instant identity verification of people. With the two partnerships, AuthBridge has been authorised to instantly verify the identity of Indian citizens using government-issued documents. Instant identity verification makes it possible to quickly establish and verify a person’s identity using a passport, PAN or Aadhaar card. Identity verification services are used by thousands of leading employers and service providers in India to verify the identity of their employees and contractors. AuthBridge has been working with one of the leading online cab aggregators and a distance ride sharing service in India to address their instant identity verification requirements for drivers, employees and passengers. AuthBridge’s access to the UIDAI API, including Aadhaar card numbers and fingerprints database, will help these service providers in identifying the identity of a passenger. The first level identity verification is gaining importance as on-demand services catch on in India, putting individuals in close contact with total strangers – drivers, home-delivery boys and other service providers. Companies cannot afford to compromise on their reputation or customers’ safety and hence the on-demand economy demands a better but quick background check,

6.1.2 Example:  Swabhimaanya, an Authentication User Agency (AUA) with the UIDAI, has developed an app TrustID to help consumers authenticate identities and run background checks of potential employees. The app helps users verify the identity of people they interact with like auto/cab drivers, maids, plumbers, fitness trainers, babysitters as well as other corporate hires by using basic details like name, gender and date of birth and Aadhaar ID.  “We are making those people, who were strangers so far, a lot more accountable. Once people start becoming more accountable, overall levels of trust in our society are bound to improve,” Swabhimaanya CEO Rahul Pagare told PTI.  The company expects to see 5 lakh transactions by March next year, driven by usage from consumers as well as the enterprise segment (March 2016(

The Aadhaar population is increasing and its users are spreading. So far, 25.48 crore bank accounts, over 71 per cent cooking gas connections and over 45 per cent ration cards are linked with the identification programme. The UIDAI authenticates over 40 lakh transactions per day. ( April 2016)

6.2 More Aadhaar Application examples –  The above mentioned applications are production systems and already offering services in real-time to real-customers. However the  following examples are picked from winners of a Aadhaar Application hackathon

6.2.1  App: True Scholar

Description: The App uses Aadhaar APIs for verification of student identity. The App provides a central database for all exam results, enables online registrations for exams and prevents impersonation during exams.

6.2.2  App: Aadhaarical

Description: Enables people to drive without any documents and allows complete verification in real-time via Aadhaar. It can also be used for easier reporting of vehicle theft, tracking of missing vehicles, challan issuance, accessibility of e-document online to resident and traffic police , car towing notification in case of car is parked in “No Parking Area”.

6.2.3  App: Samaadhaar

Description: Social Marketplace connecting Internet disabled people across the country to Products and Service Providers via local Partnerships with personalized content & information based on Aadhaar-authentication.

6.2.4 App: Aadhaaric Licence

Description: This application aims at helping people by allowing them obtain their Driving License via a hassle free online procedure just by using their Aadhaar Card – can be extended to other (government) documents.

6.2.5 App: 18-plus

Description: App paired with a simple finger print scanner can help organizations verify age of the people.

7.Resources for Aadhaar Application Developers

7.1   Aadhaar Application- APIs and Resources for Developer

Access to APIs and SDK is available at http://uidai.gov.in

  1. Conclusion

There is a tremendous opportunity for developers, startups to participate in Government of India initiated Digital India project. They can harness the Digital India infrastructure and associated resources to unleash a wave of new and innovative services and products. India is the first county in the world  to offer such an open and secure API access to innovators in its citizen services schemes. The Open API policy provides developers with access to what was until now proprietary government data.  This would help developers to integrate citizen service application with the data securely stored and provided by the government to authenticated applications. Now it’s time to start new digital journey in India.

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