This conversation will explore one of the largest and earliest foundational digital ID systems in the world, Aadhaar in India. With over 1.2 billion people enrolled, and with the ID linked to an increasingly wide range of services, we will examine this scheme that is held up by proponents of digital ID as an example for other countries to follow. We will explore the government justifications for building this system, including what has been termed by some as the “welfare façade,” the (false) promise of inclusivity and welfare enhancement, and contrast such promises with evidence of severe exclusion and hardship imposed on marginalized groups. Central to the conversation will be the vision of Aadhaar as generating data to be exploited as a “public good” in India and how this relates to the promise of inclusivity. How have the private sector, as well as the World Bank and the wider United Nations system, contributed to this model of data exploitation?

About the Speaker

Dr. Usha Ramanathan
Dr. Usha Ramanathan, Indian human rights activist and expert on law and poverty. Dr. Ramanathan has written and spoken extensively against the privacy, security and exclusionary risks of Aadhaar, India’s biometric identity scheme.

About the Series

Transformer States: A Conversation Series on Digital Government and Human Rights is a newly-launched series of virtual conversations organized by the Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project, based at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Through in-depth interviews with practitioners and academics working on digital government, this series aims to further explore digital transformation and its impact on the lives and rights of individuals. Read more about the series here.


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