Societal platforms create level playing field for public good: Nilekani
Washington: Looking at Aadhaar beyond as a unique digital identity, its architect Nandan Nilekani has advocated using its technology for public good, as societal platforms create a “level playing field”.
“Societal platforms create a level-playing field for public good. It is possible to make digital payments through a combination of public financial institutions and private banks,” he said at a public event, organised by the Centre for Global Development here on Friday.
Participating in a panel discussion on “Societal Platforms: Building beyond Aadhaar for Sustainable Development”, the former Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said societal platforms are about enforcing the rules of the game.
“Societal platforms are not about excluding market participants. They are about enforcing the rules of the game. That is the role of the society and government to provide the rules of the game,” he said.
Nilekani, 62, co-founder and the non-executive Chairman of Indian IT major Infosys, steered the world’s largest digital identity number project launched in 2009 by the then Congress-led UPA government and supported by the current BJP-led NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Aadhaar was not thought of as a specific point solution for an issue but it was a platform of identity that could be used for multiple uses,” he said.
“All ID card projects (across the world) historically have been need-based. One of the great achievements of the Indian government is to recognise that the ID itself should be a separate thing — what we call a foundational ID,” he said.
Aadhaar has led to an “existential question” in India on whether privacy is a fundamental right, he said.
“The Supreme Court of India gave out one of the best judgements in Indian history, recognising privacy as a fundamental right, and that however, the state can circumscribe that privacy for specific social goals like national security, prevention of crime, and social welfare benefits.”
In a landmark decision on August 24, Indian’s top court upheld the right to privacy as a fundamental right under the Constitution while dealing with a batch of petitions, which challenged the Central government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of its social welfare schemes.
There has been a framework set by the Supreme Court to circumscribe privacy based on “law, test of proportionality and reasonableness”, he said.
“There will be a court bench that will test whether Aadhaar meets that framework. We’re very confident that it will,” Nilekani asserted.
The event was held on the margins of the week-long annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting here.