Indian Government Integrates Drivers Licenses into its Digital Identification System

The Indian government announced on February 7 that the Aadhaar card, a twelve-digit identification number for all residents, will now link to drivers licenses, according to NDTV. The government plans to implement this initiative in an effort to prevent license fraud by connecting licenses issued in all states in real time. This addition follows the linking of other significant services such as welfare programs and financial services to India’s Aadhaar card. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) developed the Aadhaar card to create a database of the identities of Indian residents, according to The Hindu Business Line. The card serves as an identification document after the UIDAI records and verifies each Indian resident’s personal details including demographic and biometric data, such as retina scans and fingerprints. The Times of India reports that 99 percent of Indians, more than one billion people, over the age of 18 have enrolled for an Aadhaar card. While the government does not officially require residents to register for Aadhaar, it made enrollment in the program necessary for basic services such as opening bank accounts, establishing death certificates, and most recently welfare services. The Wire reports that, in total, the government issued 139 regulations calling for the linkage of Aadhaar to additional aspects of life.

The Supreme Court has faced thirty petitions and six interventions against the implementation of Aadhaar since 2012, according to The Wire. Opposers to the Aadhaar system pose two || significant concerns: privacy and denial of rights.  People cite this as a major threat to their privacy. Additionally, Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act essentially makes Aadhaar mandatory for government services. Consequently, people who have not registered for a card cannot receive essential services. Recently, residents of old age homes in Uttar Pradesh were denied pension benefits due to the absence of Aadhaar cards, according to The Economic Times. This reflects the Aadhaar Act of 2016, which states that the Central or State Government may make possession of Aadhaar registration mandatory for receipt of subsidies, benefits, or services funded by the government of India. This presents a challenge to people who do not want to enroll in the Aadhaar program. Others fear that Aadhaar could contribute to the creation of a surveillance state in India.

The scale of the Aadhaar system alone makes it an impressive feat. Civic technology leaders generally cite Estonia as the World’s most tech-savvy government, due to its successful integration of digital technology in the public sector, reports the Atlantic. However, the relatively small size of Estonia makes its achievement seem unrealistic to larger, more bureaucratic countries such as India. Aadhaar defies Estonia’s claim by presenting evidence of a public sector based digital system that connects more than one billion people. The decision to link the Aadhaar card with drivers licenses emphasizes the incorporation of significant government documents into the system. The steady expansion of the program will continue to influence the reliance of the Indian government and its people on Aadhaar. Whether this is a good or a bad thing will be determined as the development of the system proceeds.