October 7, 2013
India’s audacious plan to bring mobile payments to the masses: pair them with a national ID card
For three years now India has been rolling out a biometric national ID card called Aadhar, or “foundation”. It is an apt name. The plan is to issue one of these to every man, woman and child living in India, with the stated aim not of surveilling them (the cards are not mandatory) but for the purposes of improving record-keeping, decreasing corruption and ensuring that all Indians have access to government services. Quartz reports.
Debate rages over whether the scheme will fulfil its goals, become a white elephant, or lay the foundation for a dystopic bureaucracy, something India is all too good at.
Despite the criticism, Aadhar has formed a solid base. Some 440 million cards have already been issued—just over a third of Indians now have one.
Now the government is expanding its ambitions. Nandan Nilekani, a founder of Infosys and the man in charge of the Aadhar scheme, suggested last week that the platform the cards run on will be extended to include peer-to-peer money transfers. (If you’re in the US, imagine using your social security number to pay for a cup of coffee.)
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