At DIRI, we are engaged in research in areas of digital identity, with a focus on Aadhaar. We extensively work on the relevance and application of digital identity in welfare programmes and financial inclusion among others. Current commissioned researches include:
IMPACT OF AADHAAR ENABLED SERVICES ON THE PERFORMANCE OF BANKING CORRESPONDENCE IN INDIA
India has fared very poorly in terms of financial inclusion with nearly 65% of Indian adults not even having a savings bank account at the end of the year 2011, with 43% of such accounts remaining dormant. The Government of India and the the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), from time to time have undertaken a large number of initiatives aimed at achieving the goal of universal financial inclusion.
Lack of credible identification documents has been a key challenge in the path of full financial inclusion. Until recently a large fraction of the Indian population did not have a unique identity card and the existing surrogates lacked credibility. The Government of India launched the Aadhaar initiative, the worlds largest digital identity platform, in the year 2009 with a view to provide a unique identity number to all. The Aadhaar number serves as a proof of identity and address anywhere in India.
The introduction of Aadhaar has been used to study the impact of technology on financial inclusion, especially the impact of technology on an unconventional banking channel known as the Customer Service Point (CSP) or the Bank Mitra. CSP is a representative of the bank, typically located in an unbanked area, and tasked with the responsibility of providing basic banking services to citizens. The paper aims to study the impact from three standpoints: impact on users, impact on service providers like CSPs and impact on bank lending.
PASTORALISTS AND AADHAAR. CASE STUDIES TO UNDERSTAND AADHAAR USE AMONG NOMADIC PASTORALISTS
Aadhaar is an initiative of the Government of India to provide a unique identity number to all the citizens of India, however, we find that there are certain migratory communities like the nomadic pastoralist community, that stand a chance of being excluded from this effort. The pastoralists own large herds of animals and birds and are unable to meet their feed requirements through stall feeding. Hence they move over large areas, sometimes three or four states, depending on the seasonality and the presence of forage. A section of the migratory route maybe seen as a home base to which they return to for 4-5 months each year. All communities have areas that they are welcome and unwelcome in.
While Aadhaar lacks the capacity to alter ways in which host communities treat pastoralists, it is yet to be seen how Aadhaar will play a role in legitimizing their presence while on the move. The project attempts to understand the technological, social and economic dimensions to Aadhaar use by such highly mobile communities as well as ways by which Aadhaar has ended up excluding these communities from services they formerly had relatively easy access to. The research will be housed within ISB and will be undertaken in partnership with Sahjeevan’s Centre for Pastoralism (Gujarat).
QUANTIFYING THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OF THE PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM IN INDIA ON BENEFICIARIES AND FAIR PRICE SHOPS
Following a central government mandate, many state governments have undertaken a digital transformation of the public distribution system (PDS) to plug leakages and increase transparency. These efforts include digitization of ration cards and their linkage to Aadhaar cards to remove duplicate and bogus cards, computerization of the warehouses to track the movement of food grains and installation of point-of-sales (POS) devices in the FPSs to monitor the sale of food grains to correctly identified beneficiaries. Some state governments have claimed savings of the order of 200 million INR due to these initiatives by considering the reduction in number of beneficiaries or active ration cards and the corresponding reduction in volume of food grains distributed. However, there is very little rigorous evidence on the extent to which the performance of the PDS has improved because of these initiatives.
This project attempts to undertake an impact evaluation of the digital transformation of the PDS and provide quantitative answers to how digital transformation has affected leakage, ability of beneficiaries to get their full entitlement of food grains and inventory of food grains in the PDS supply chain.
Projects pursued by DIRI Research Fellows
Analysis of the use of Aadhaar in Primary Education in Haryana
Project description: In the recent years, there has been an upsurge in the need to create, and link digital identity of Aadhar to various resources. In the educational sector, Aadhar has been used to address the problem of teacher absenteeism through biometric attendance. There is also Aadhaar intervention in mid-day meals to increase the efficiency of the scheme by identifying ‘ghost records’; provide targeted scholarships to students based on Aadhaar linked financial records. There are also reports suggesting that marks card of students will be linked to Aadhaar which would enable tracking of student-progress over time. With an increase in the need to link Aadhaar, it is important to understand the effect the intervention has had so far in the educational ecosystem. In this project, I wish to understand the effect of Aadhaar on teacher absenteeism and mid-day meals through a case study in schools of Haryana. Through this project, I would like to further understand the impact of Aadhaar in Primary education Government schools by field study in schools of Sonipat by surveying teachers, students, principal and ABEAS nodal officers. This would involve secondary research from (news reports, Aadhaar reports, State Government data dashboards) and primary research by surveying teachers, students and school staff.
A study of current state and potential usages of Aadhaar authenticated records for credit risk assessment (CRA)
We propose to identify the current state and potential usages of Aadhaar authenticated records for credit risk assessment (CRA). We argue that Aadhaar authenticated records possess multi-dimensional information that can be used for generating rich contextual knowledge which may be useful for CRA. To develop this hypothesis, we first seek to take a stock of the extent to which Aadhaar is being used to authenticated records. We then follow up with study of cases where these records are being used for the purpose of economic status determination to grant access to services/benefits. Using findings of the case studies, we then propose to identify Aadhaar authenticated records which can possibly be used towards CRA. Subsequently, we propose to validate utility of the identified Aadhaar Authenticated records through expert interviews. Finally, we seek to conduct a brain storming session to know further possibilities with Aadhaar authenticated records for a possibly better CRA.
Understanding Determinants and Barriers for Adoption of BHIM-Aadhaar Pay: A Behavioral Reasoning Theory Perspective.
With financial inclusion being one of the goals of Aadhaar, Government of India is launching various schemes revolving around Aadhaar authentication to achieve the financial inclusion goal. Since demonetization in November 2016, one of major focus of the Government of India is to promote cashless and digital economy. With seeding and linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts, completing financial transactions with biometric authentication is now possible using BHIM-Aadhaar Pay. The innovative solution has a numerous inherent capabilities and benefits; however the adoption of this is still a major challenge. This study aims to study the determinants and barriers of adoption of BHIM-Aadhaar Pay among merchants especially in the semi-urban and rural areas of select regions of North India. To achieve the research objectives, we use the novel – behavioral reasoning theory which helps to identify ‘reasons for’ and ‘reasons against’ adoption of technology. The findings of the study will help the policy makers to develop suitable strategies for promotion of adoption of Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) and achieve the goal of financial inclusion and cashless society.
To Link or Not to Link
Nearly 250 million 1 workers are benefitting from the world’s largest employment guarantee program in India. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), guarantees 100 days of work on demand and the payment for such work must be made within 15 days of completion of the work week. However, even after 13 years of the enactment of the law, the government continues to grapple with the issue of timely payment of wages. 2 In addition to this, the government claims that leakages due to bogus job cards and fake workers’ accounts continue to plague the program. The Government of India aims to resolve this issue and reduce leakages by linking workers’ job cards and their payments to their Aadhaar Card. A massive exercise of job card verification and linking them to beneficiaries’ Aadhaar Cards took place followed by the process of moving workers’ payments to the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System. Discussions with stakeholders and an analysis of available literature suggests that there is tremendous lack of clarity regarding the precise mechanism by which linking MGNREGA payments to Aadhaar is supposed to improve payments – let alone clarity regarding the impacts of the project. This study therefore attempts to outline the precise mechanism, by which MGNREGA payments are made, provide insights about the impact of the Aadhaar enabled payment system and highlight issues that arise in practice in order to suggest improvements.
A study of the grievance redressal mechanisms associated with Aadhaar linked social-welfare schemes
The study plans to examine, review, and suggest improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the grievance redressal mechanisms associated with Aadhaar linked public-funded social-welfare schemes. Launched in 2009, Aadhaar is now linked to over 350 social-welfare schemes catering to the needs of over a billion beneficiaries. The inception of Aadhaar is firmly rooted in the government’s idea of providing a unique identity to all citizens to make access to public services smoother, transparent, and accountable. Aadhaar-based identification and authentication has now become mandatory for citizens to avail several government schemes. However, there has been continuous reportage regarding implementation failure at various levels which potentially brings to light several serious gaps that may be present in the existing system. While increasing number of issues faced by citizens with respect to Aadhaar linkage/seeding to receive their entitlements get reported, it is important to understand them better as well as the process that is currently being followed to file/receive complaints – which agency/individual assumes responsibility for resolution, with what kind of assurance/guarantees and so on. With the existing methods of filing grievances through a contact centre which includes options of making a voice call on the number provided, sending an email, or using a resident portal, by sending a post to UIDAI HQs and Regional Offices (ROs), and through Public Grievance Portal of the Government of India and some preliminary understanding of the background of beneficiaries who can file grievances, it is highly probable that the system-in-place excludes a substantial portion of the affected beneficiary population. Hence, with this study, we aim to take a deep dive into understanding the working of the grievance redressal mechanism and analyse the problems present in the current implementation of the mechanism from the beneficiary perspective. We hope these insights will allow us to propose solutions that could be deployed to improve the effectiveness of the grievance resolution process.
Does an Aadhaar Enabled Payment System improve financing of MSMEs?
The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) generate millions of jobs, and contribute significantly to the nation’s GDP, to exports, and to manufacturing output.1 If adequately financed, this sector can play a signifi- cant role in social and economic restructuring of India. Such financing would require a good credit risk assessment by the lending institutions. At the same time, a poor estimation of credit risk translates loans into non-performing assets (NPAs) on the bank’s books thereby acerbating the already problematic NPA situation in the banking system
Preliminary Research Proposal: Women, Aadhaar and Exclusion
Digital technologies for accurately identifying individuals are proliferating for more than a decade now. State, market and a host of different institutions have come to rely on digital IDs as the most efficient means of identifying citizens, customers, employees or clients. Digital biometric IDs rose in vogue in post 9/11 as heightened concerns for national security vindicated the need for a robust information infrastructure based on digital biometric identification system (Breckenridge 2005). India’s Aadhaar project has emerged as one of the most ambitious among many attempts of biometric Identification across the world (Breckenridge 2014). Though initiated within the national security debate, Aadhaar has slowly moved to the issues social security and welfare system. This steady growth of digital IDs, and recent push towards reinventing biometric IDs through digital technologies has opened up many debates around its benefits, its pitfalls, its shortcoming and above all, its general desirability in our daily lives and society.
Notwithstanding these endless debates, one point becomes clear that digital biometric IDs are here to stay and hence it is imperative to understand its various ramifications. In the proposed study, we set out to understand how digital IDs in general and digital biometric ID in particular are changing the relationship between state, and individual/society.
Using Online Content to Understand the Perception about Aadhaar
This research seeks to understand the perception about Aadhaar by performing sentiment analysis on opinion pieces and vernacular social media content. We propose to collect secondary data available on popular and polyglot social networking apps and analyse biasness and polarity of content based on individual responses and networks. We wish to understand the possibility of media campaign coverage on certain topics leading to higher acceptance and thereby facilitating easier adoption of Aadhaar. We also want to understand the impact of social media networks on Aadhaar acceptance through the lens of scaling as positive, negative and neutral emotions.
Does Aadhaar solve the identity crisis of the waste-pickers in India?
Waste picking ranks lowest in the hierarchy of urban informal occupations and a large number of those employed in this occupation are women and children. Although there are limited statistics available on their share in the total population, city wise rough estimates can be obtained such as approx. 7000 – 10,000 1 are estimated to be the waste picker community in the city of Hyderabad. This group is characterized as the illiterate, unskilled, migrant, those lowest in the caste hierarchy and the poores of the poor population, and are in the profession of waste picking as they are unable to find any other kind of employment (WEIGO). This community suffers from serious identification problem. Anecdotal studies have demonstrated that for many workers—particularly unorganized workers such as street rag pickers, having an identity (including Aadhaar/employee ID/voter ID and ration card) is critical. After obtaining these, they ‘feel’ they not only can access benefits, although they then face an array of challenges in the process. In addition, accessing work through an identification card contributes to a sense of empowerment. In the absence of any sort of identification, Aadhaar could potentially lead to higher social and economic benefits for the waste pickers. Given this background, the primary objective of this study is to study the role of Aadhaar on the welfare of the waste picker’s population. Specifically, the study would focus on the following aspects. Firstly, to assess whether having an Aadhaar card serves to improve the identity crisis of the waste picker’s community compared to not having any. Secondly, to evaluate if there is any significant difference in their accessibility of benefits from the government welfare schemes through Aadhaar as most of these population is nomadic. The analysis from this study could help unravel the nature of the impediments facing this community in being able to access the government schemes through Aadhaar. Thirdly, does having an Aadhaar card lead to different welfare outcomes for waste pickers in formal vs. informal work set up. And, lastly to explore characteristics of the waste picker’s community, which enable Aadhaar to create potential benefits for them. To begin with, I intend to start my interactions with the wide spectrum of waste picker communities spread across the Indian cities such as in Hyderabad, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune and Indore, to understand their distinct work environments, and the role that Aadhaar card plays across them.
Anxieties of Recognition in the Digital Age: Privacy Concerns around Aadhaar and Social Media Technologies in India
This project examines the digital privacy debate in India from a legal, technological and social perspective to understand how digital identity is being articulated in relation to privacy. The proliferating Aadhaar linkages and its data breaches as well as Facebook/WhatsApp handling of user data have triggered the digital privacy debate in India. Consequently, privacy activists have warned of mass surveillance, social profiling and other breaches of user data privacy. The project proposes that these concerns are more appropriately understood as “anxieties of recognition” that instantiate a piquant paradox of visibility in the digital age: the desire for publicity, legibility and recognition of identity and speech simultaneously with the demand for control over our data as a form of privacy has led to issues of trust among the state, citizens and technology. Such a paradox also collapses the distinction between an objective view of the individual based on personal demographic information stored in databases and the ever-evolving subjective attributes and practices that also define our identities as individuals. It examines privacy activism in India that has critiqued Aadhaar’s as well as social media technologies’ potential to breach citizen privacy through personal data breaches and information’s capitalization. Drawing upon media and technology studies and legal scholarship on privacy, the project aims to temper a contentious debate that has become polarized between the benevolent state’s attempts to bring transparency in governance and the contestations by legal scholars, privacy activists and civil society activists who portend the rise of the surveillance state.
Aadhaar for Niraadhaar: Bringing the Urban Homeless Poor under the Ambit of Aadhaar
Problem Addressed by the Study Aadhaar and Social (In/Ex)clusion: India has undergone a radical change in terms of its economic and regulatory structures in the past two decades, getting transformed into a more empowered economy, in which people have access to resources and services more easily and effectively. The government has been focusing on improving the reach of financial services through innovative interventions to allay problems of accessibility commonly faced by the masses.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), established in 2009 and earlier functioning as part of the Planning Commission of India (now Niti Aayog), presently stands as a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (in short, Aadhaar Act, 2016) in July, 2016 by the Government of India. Further, since its launch in August 2014, the trio called Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) has been projected as a credible tool for the transformative governance that India aspires for, promising inclusive growth, socio-economic development and transparency. And out of these, Aadhaar serves to be a medium through which the UIDAI aspires to reach the remotest corners of the country. UIDAI has also been ambitious in propagating that Aadhaar would help the state provide social and financial inclusion for everyone. With biometrically secure identification in the form of Aadhaar card, people from all walks of life are expected to have access to a whole new array of services.
However, despite all-round efforts, access to finance has remained scarce for the poorest citizen of the country, especially the urban homeless poor (UHP). The actual definition of ‘homeless’ and portrayal of the condition of homelessness, observe Goel et al. (2017), vary across nations. Further, adopting a single definition of homelessness may actually not be appropriate, especially in context of developing nations (Speak and Tipple, 2003). Hence to identify homeless, we go by the definition given by Census of India (2011), describing them as “the persons who are not living in Census houses”, living at places like pavements, railway platforms, roadsides, inside drainage pipes, under flyovers, at places of worship, mandaps, and the likes.
Can Aadhaar lead to improved last mile delivery of banking services?
Last mile delivery of financial services is a major challenge facing financial inclusion interventions in India which is home to a large unbanked population living in remote and rural areas. Digital identity makes creation of innovative digital distribution channels feasible which in turn can impact the scale, scope and reach of financial services by making them affordable and convenient for the users. Among various financial inclusion interventions implemented by Government of India in past many years, Business Correspondent (BC) model of banking, notified in 2006 by Reserve Bank of India, has the distinction of being at the grass root level, hence addressing last mile delivery of banking services by establishing direct contact with users. Although seen as a progressive step towards last mile delivery, BC model of banking has had limited success due to institutional challenges such as financial viability and regulatory regime, and practical challenges such as cash management, use of technology, remuneration structures, vulnerability of clients and possibilities of fraud. Integration of Aadhaar into banking services has the potential to resolve many of these issues. The proposed study will focus on identifying demand and supply side issues facing BC model that can be resolved through integration of Aadhaar into banking services.
Policy and Practice of Aadhaar management in the Public Sector
This exploratory study seeks to understand the issues that emerge when new-age digital systems, built from scratch interact with legacy systems in governance contexts. One such issue is the leakage of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in the form of Aadhaar biometric information when coupled with land registration systems. Aadhaar is the quintessential example of an extensively deployed new-age digital system and land administration systems are a perfect example of legacy systems. The study will examine the extant land registration practices, procedures and processes in select registration offices across India using a mix of analytical methods including archival research, ethnographic techniques, and interviews. It will be conducted at the land registration offices across different states in India. The study is expected to provide insights into how the public sector manages the Aadhaar related data it collects and help in future-proofing administrative systems.
PERCEPTION OF AADHAAR IN THE USERS’ MINDS – Perceived Benefits, Value, Utility, Expectations, Trust & Risk
As Indian government established the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in 2008, standing
today the outlook of Aadhaar has changed. As linking of Aadhaar is being made compulsory to a host of services, our study is going to look at the utility of Aadhaar service as per the consumer perception. The study is also going to look at what is the perceived potential and ability of Aadhaar to be instrumental in the process of achieving a cashless economy without compromising on the privacy of 1.2 billion people – trust and risk perception. It is also important to know the usefulness and value of Aadhaar, what are its perceived benefits. The study is initially going to be done in Udupi district of Karnataka and we plan to extend it to cross-country study in the long run. The study also is going to look at the perceived problems and expectations from it, besides the level of awareness and factors which drive its usage. The study is crucial, because a proper study of perception of people about Aadhaar might help this government scheme to be a full-fledged success as early as possible.
Research proposal: Access and participation by vulnerable groups in the Aadhaar ecosystem
The Aadhaar Act is meant to serve as a tool for good governance and a mechanism for efficient and transparent delivery of subsidies and services. Over time, this has translated into the linkage of Aadhaar with a large number of schemes run by the government, such as the public distribution system, employment guarantee benefits, and mid-day meals in schools. Aadhaar has also become necessary for availing other services like banking and telecommunications, even when these are offered by the private sector. The ubiquitous adoption of Aadhaar implies that inability to participate in the Aadhaar ecosystem would effectively amount to an exclusion from large parts of the economy. This makes it necessary to understand the extent to which different sections of the society, particularly its more vulnerable segments, have been able to participate in the Aadhaar ecosystem. As per Section 5 of the Aadhaar Act, UIDAI is required to take special measures to issue.
Aadhaar numbers to certain groups, such as women, senior citizens and persons with disabilities. These categories represent socially and economically vulnerable sections of the population that are more likely to face obstacles in obtaining an Aadhaar enrolment and participating in its identification and authentication systems. Our goal is to understand the measures taken by UIDAI or its partner agencies for securing access and participation by vulnerable groups. The focus of the study will be on two groups, namely senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs). We will seek information from the UIDAI and its partner agencies to understand their processes for enabling participation by senior citizens and PWDs in Aadhaar enrolment and authentication processes. In addition, we will reach out to organizations working with these groups in rural and urban areas to study their experience about the on-the-ground effectiveness of the existing processes and the impact of Aadhaar on the lives of those stakeholder groups.
Present and Potential impact of Aadhaar on Anganwadi System in Delhi
Anganwadi centres are the central implementing agencies of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), launched in 1975 to combat child hunger and malnutrition in our country. These centres form one of the world’s largest and most unique outreach programme for early childhood care and development targeting children below six years of age, expectant and nursing mothers. An Anganwadi worker is the focal point for the delivery of a wide range of services like health check-ups, immunization, supplementary nutrition, referral services, non-formal pre-school education, and nutrition and health education. Despite after 43 years of implementation, our country’s relative Under-performance on parameters of IMR and MMR across globe indicates a great necessity to improve our public-healthcare delivery mechanisms by strengthening our institutions.
Digital identities like Aadhaar can play a huge role in enabling data-driven governance and also in improving the interoperability between different stakeholders inside and outside government. Realising its potential in improving ICDS, Aadhaar number is being collected at different stages to track the scheme’s implementation. In states like Delhi, Anganwadi centres are also used for conducting Aadhaar enrollment camps to children of ages 5 months – 6 years. Delhi has 10887 Anganwadi Centres run by Social Welfare Board under 95 Projects. Average number of children enrolled per Anganwadi is around 50 but the actual attendance is only 15-20 children. The state has piloted creche services one year ago that caters to children from 6 months to 6 years. Among the 20 lakh children in the state, the current Anganwadi system is directly impacting 25% (5 lakh) of the population. In the current system, Aadhaar is being linked with the service delivery in Anganwadis although the service is not denied due to the lack of its availability. In the last 2 years, almost 4.25 lakh children have been registered through centers. Taking into consideration all the above statistics, this research is designed to understand the complete Anganwadi ecosystem with an aim to target the present and potential impact of digitization using Aadhaar on Anganwadi system in the state of New Delhi. In this regard, we had a discussion with Ms. Nisha Singh, Advisor to Deputy CM of Delhi, who is responsible for designing and implementing reforms in ICDS scheme of the Women and Child development department. Through the discussion, we got an overview of the ongoing work related to Digitization and Aadhaar at the policy stage. In the coming weeks, we are planning to study the overall system through interviews, visits, and observations by visiting at least 50 selected Anganwadi centres across the state. After getting a basic ground-level understanding about the system, we will frame a hypothesis and use the aid of surveys and interviews taken from different stakeholders to test it and present the conclusions through a comprehensive report.