India's Aadhaar touts instant mobile connections

Indian government's biometric Aadhaar initiative potentially can be used to support instant mobile connections across the country by year-end, but its use is limited since it's not mandatory to have an Aadhaar card.
Written by Nitin Puri, Contributor

The Indian government is finalizing standards by year-end that it says will allow existing and new Aadhaar cardholders to instantly receive a new mobile connection by using their biometric ID card.


According to a report by Zeenews.com, retailers can scan fingerprints and match these with existing fingerprints on file at point of sale (POS). Once verified, a mobile connection will instantly be approved. 

This process currently takes longer as a physical visit by a representative from the Indian mobile operator is required to verify and approve connections. Usually, this process can take three to five working days, which clearly isn't an effective process. However, in light of security issues and the almost imminent threat of terrorist attacks, verification measures were changed after the Mumbai attacks in December 2008.

This process will also reduce the amount of paperwork required by retailers, customers, and Indian mobile operators, as the POS will automate the entire registration process. However, additional documents will still be required, such as a valid driving license or passport.

Eventually, the goal of the Indian government is to make mobile connections available only with the use of an Aadhaar card. So far, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, and Vodafone are onboard in their support for the initiative. As for the remaining mobile operators, eventually they'll have to come on board too. In the interest of both accountability and accuracy by the Indian mobile operators to ensure they have the right subscriber information, using the Aadhaar card probably is the best solution in India.

However, here's the sticking point: It's not mandatory to have an Aadhaar card in India. This obviously raises the question about Indians who want to obtain mobile connections but don't have an Aadhaar card. One would assume the current application process will remain, but the Indian government is moving toward issuing mobile connections only on Aadhaar card registrations.

Furthermore, what about foreigners and tourists who come to India. How will they able to obtain a mobile connection as they have no Indian ID to begin with? The easiest way around this is to get a friend in India to simply register a new mobile connection for you, but the government is going to limit the number of SIM cards allowed to be registered under one person's ID.

It will be interesting to see in the coming months if this streamlined process is indeed a more effective and secure method for issuing new mobile connections, or whether it will prove to be just be another headache, especially for those who don't have an Aadhaar card.

And even those who apply for an Aadhaar card would have to endure an average waiting time of about three to six months to receive it--courtesy of the Indian government. 

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