In February 2009, the Government of India announced the formation of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The purpose of this initiative was twofold: it would issue a unique identification number to all Indian residents (as against citizens, an important distinction) that would be:
- robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and
- verifiable and authenticable in an easy, cost-effective way.
The Centre for the Study of Culture & Society, Bangalore, has over the past three years (2009-13) conducted an intensive three-year field analysis of the on-the-ground impact that Aadhaar is having in the country. Titled The Identity Project, this emerged largely as a result of our dissatisfaction with the nature of the debate that was emerging on the area of digital governance in India. Over the past three years this project has conducted field visits across seven Indian states (Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala). It has gathered numerous video-conversations with a diverse number of individuals who involved with the emergence of a digital ecosystem of governance: including people being enrolled into the Aadhaar programme, district-level Panchayat and other officials, numerous State government bureaucrats, private enrollment representatives, representatives of various governmental services, with operators and other members of this digital workforce.
This presentation provides a social-sciences perspective on the digital ecosystem of governance. It presents a set of six ‘stress points’ that are likely to determine the debate as it unfolds in India. These will be presented along extensive clips of the field interviews, to provide a perspective on an initiative shaping to transform the very character of the modern Indian state.
Ashish Rajadhyaksha is Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Culture & Society, Bangalore, and project leader of The Identity Project. His previous books include The Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema (with Paul Willemen), 1999, Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency, 2009, and The Last Cultural Mile: An Enquiry into Technology and Governance in India (2010).
Co-sponsored by the School of Information.