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India’s Universal ID program seeks to provide a unique identity to all 1.2 billion residents. With the challenge of covering a very large population, India is is a unique testing ground for biometric identification technology. Its successes and potential failures will have far-reaching implications for other developing countries looking to create national identity systems. Already, the Indian case offers some important lessons:

  • Using multiple biometrics helps maximize accuracy, inclusion, and security
  • Supporting public- and private-sector applications creates incentives for use
  • Competitive, standards-based procurement lowers costs
  • Cardless design increases security and cuts costs but can be problematic if mobile networks are incomplete
  • Establishing clear jurisdiction is essential
  • Open technology is good, but proprietary systems and foreign providersmay still be necessary

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India's Universal ID Program by the Numbers