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Largest-ever Survey on Aadhaar Provides Data-Driven Insights on Key Aspects of Exclusion, Privacy and Data Quality

May 16, 2018

Three-state survey highlights differences in state capacity; identifies specific areas to address to tackle data quality and exclusion issues

 New Delhi, India — 17 May 2018 — IDinsight, a global development analytics firm working across India, today released the State of Aadhaar Report 2017-18. The report is based on the largest household survey since Aadhaar’s inception, covering 2947 rural households in 21 districts across Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal. The survey was conducted between November 2017 and February 2018. “The goal of the State of Aadhaar Report is to catalyse the Aadhaar debate and policymaking to be more data-driven,” said Ronald Abraham, Partner, IDinsight.

The key highlights of the report are:

  • Aadhaar’s coverage is widespread, but the data quality has room for improvement. The report finds higher coverage of Aadhaar than voter IDs. In addition, the report finds no evidence of differences in enrolment by gender, caste, religion, or education levels. The report highlights that 8.8% of Aadhaar-holders reported errors on their name, age, address, or other information on their Aadhaar letter. Compared to voter IDs, the error-rate on Aadhaar was 1.5 times higher.
  • While exclusion from food ration (PDS) due to Aadhaar-related factors is significant, it is lower than exclusion explained by factors unrelated to AadhaarState capacity has a bearing on the functioning of PDS, with wide variation between Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Overall monthly exclusion from PDS in Rajasthan is 9.9%, whereas it is 1.1% in AP. Of this, Aadhaar-related factors contribute 2.2% and 0.8% respectively. Despite this, the report finds that a majority of food ration (PDS) recipients prefer Aadhaar-based PDS delivery in both states, as they perceive biometric authentication prevents identity fraud.
  • Over 96% of respondents valued privacy and thought it is important to know what the government will do with their Aadhaar data. At the same time, 87% of respondents approve of mandatory linking of Aadhaar to programmes like PDS.
  • Aadhaar's analog version (the letter used as a paper ID) is much more widely used to open bank accounts than its digital version (e-KYC). 67% of bank account holders used their Aadhaar letter to open their most recent account, and 17% used e-KYC.

Abraham added, “Issues such as protecting privacy and eliminating exclusion are serious and require rigorous evidence to carefully unpack and address”.

Dr. Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO of UIDAI, said, "IDinsight's latest report highlights that Aadhaar has wide-scale support on the ground. PDS exclusion due to failure of local administration, though small, should be taken very seriously by the concerned agencies. They should ensure that not a single beneficiary is denied. The Aadhaar Act and Government instructions provide for alternate means of identification for genuine beneficiaries who encounter problems in authentication."

To enhance access and agency for individuals, the report points to the need to augment state capacity and providing a robust, credible manual override in case of biometric failure. Other policy recommendations of the report include a national campaign to update incorrect data, strengthening business correspondent networks, and developing robust laws and institutions for privacy protection.

CV Madhukar, Global Digital Identity Lead at Omidyar Network, which sponsored the report, said: “There has been much heated debate about Aadhaar in recent months, which is mainly binary in nature. We hope the findings of the State of Aadhaar Report provide the much-needed empirical base for a more informed and nuanced debate, and sharper insights for policy making on this very important issue.”

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