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India’s National ID system, Aadhaar, integrated with lightweight version of Skype

Image credit: Microsoft India

India’s national identification number project, Aadhaar, has been integrated with a lightweight version of Skype launched by Microsoft in India earlier this year. Skype Lite was the fastest and smallest app to date built specifically for the Indian market. It is optimised for 2G and unstable network connections.

In the latest version of Skype Lite, Aadhaar integration can be used to verify users’ identity online, helping them communicate more securely with others.

Users can use Skype Lite to make a call to an important business client or government representative. By using Aadhaar, both parties can verify their identity at the beginning of the call to prevent impersonation fraud.

Either party can request Aadhaar verification over a video call using Skype Lite. In order to confirm your identity, users have to click on the “Verify Aadhaar identity” button (as seen in the image above), enter their 12-digit Aadhaar number and then authenticate with a one-time password sent via SMS. Once validated, they can choose to share pre-selected Aadhaar information with the other person to confirm your identity.

Once the call is over, both parties will see the Aadhaar verification captured as an event within the conversation. The press release from Microsoft clarifies that Skype will not store any Aadhaar information and all personal information—including the video and audio conversations —is securely encrypted.

Aadhaar is considered to be the world’s largest national identification number project. It comprises a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data. The data is collected by a statutory authority, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Over 1.15 billion members were enrolled with Aadhaar, as of June 11, 2017 (India’s population is estimated to be around 1.3 billion as of 2016). It is being used as a foundational element for the Indian government's move towards digitising government services. For instance, integrating Aadhaar with welfare programs helps in curbing leakages and ensuring that services are delivered to the intended beneficiaries only.

Its use is becoming increasingly mandatory for accessing a wide range of government services.

Citizens are also using Aadhaar to interact with private businesses, from getting SIM cards to opening bank accounts, with a higher level of trust and lower potential for fraud.

Several governments have been exploring or are already using popular communication platforms from the private sector for the government service delivery. For example, the South Korean Government is using KakaoTalk, while the Chinese government is utilising WeChat for official communication, from the national right down to the provincial levels. It can also used by citizens for communicating with the government.

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