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The Digital Identity Research Initiative (DIRI) is a targeted and multidisciplinary policy-oriented research intervention at the Indian School of Business (ISB). With a view to explore key questions around digital identity in India, particularly Aadhaar – the Indian government’s biometric identity programme – DIRI was launched on July 5, 2017 in collaboration with the Omidyar Network.
Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric identity project. The project’s implementation for welfare delivery to India’s socio-economically marginalized population since 2010 has brought forth a national debate on questions of inclusion, social justice, democratic governance and economic development. These concerns have global salience given the interest expressed by developing nations in implementing similar biometric identity systems. Aadhaar has brought about transformational changes in the efficient delivery of services in the Indian public and the private sector. With this digital transformation of identification, new challenges pertaining to the creation of IT infrastructures, access, exclusion of legitimate beneficiaries and data security have emerged. These challenges need to be understood to better fulfill the potential for data-driven empowerment and inclusive growth promised by Aadhaar and other forms of digital identification.
Production of high quality and timely research on digital identity, with a focus on Aadhaar, to address critical knowledge gaps
Targeted engagement with relevant stakeholders to ensure that research results can inform policy and strategy decisions, while the findings are effectively disseminated to ensure easy and wider access
Build a global research ecosystem for Digital Identity, with a special focus on India
Since its inception, the initiative has offered funding support to emerging and established researchers in India and internationally to study the Aadhaar ecosystem from multiple perspectives. Research fellows and faculty affiliates at DIRI have advanced the scholarly dialogue on Aadhaar’s role in offering a digital identity to marginalized populations to bring about greater transparency in welfare delivery and foster financial inclusion.
Through their scholarship, they have addressed key concerns around digital identity such as the welfare access and delivery under the public distribution system (PDS) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), technological failure and financial inclusion, data privacy and the uses of portability in accessing welfare benefits. The initiative is committed to producing timely research that facilitates policymaking grounded in the material experiences of digital identity in India.