Business – Microsoft ‘excited’ about unique ID project
Microsoft Research sees “exciting” opportunities for itself in the Indian government’s unique identification project – in the areas of user interface, multi-lingual systems, mobility and secure database management.
The research arm of Microsoft is in talks with Mr Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, to explore options.
On the sidelines of the ‘TechVista 2010′ research symposium in the city, Dr P. Anandan, Managing Director, Microsoft Research India, said: “We are interested in any societal challenge. The UIDAI project presents exciting challenges and interesting research possibilities for us.” Currently, over 40 researchers are working at the Microsoft research lab in India, which was set up in 2005.
Mr Nilekani, a special guest at the symposium, said the unique ID project involving 1.2 billion people was a “game-changing” initiative that posed a lot of complex technological and logistical challenges.
Ensuring there is no duplication of numbers is a huge challenge, he added. Mr Nilekani hoped that Microsoft Research would work with the government on the research challenges the project would throw up.
Mr Nilekani hoped the creation of a unique number for every Indian citizen would bridge the divide between those with identification proofs (passport, licence etc) and those without any. “The project hopes to create an inclusive society by acknowledging the disadvantaged society, ensuring that they gain access to public services and demand their rights. It will also make sure the benefits of various government initiatives (such as ration, NREGA payments and pension) reaches the right people.” The unique ID could also find application in the areas of financial inclusion and primary healthcare, he added.
The unique ID project involves creating a central depository of information that includes biometric details, demographic and biographic data.
It also seeks to create an online authenticity verification system using mobile networks.
The government hopes to expedite the process by appointing several registrars to enrol people into the system, apart from setting up thousands of touch points for information collection, said Mr Nilekani. He also hoped members of the public would volunteer themselves to be a part of the project by enrolling themselves in internships and sabbatical programmes.
The first set of numbers will start rolling out between August 2010 and February 2011. The project hopes to cover 600 million people in five years.
At the event, Mr Nilekani also unveiled a computer science community portal ResearchAndYou.com, an initiative by Microsoft Research India, which seeks to provide a forum for students to connect with researchers and explore research opportunities.
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