A summary – The State of Aadhaar Report
Dalberg along with Omidyar network India recently did human-centered design-based research on how Aadhaar is being received and used by the masses. You can access the actual report here.
In this post, we try to summarize what we learned from the report and what we thought it all came down to.
Aadhaar was conceived as an ambitious project to provide universal identity to more than one billion Indians, Aadhaar is unparalleled in its reach and aspiration. An important objective of the project has been to improve the ability of the Indian state to provide efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of welfare services to a large number of residents who depend on it. In the years following Aadhaar’s launch, its use has expanded to private service provision, including mobile communication and banking services, while raising questions around data privacy, security, and more broadly around what it means for residents of India to have a digital identity.
Aadhaar is India’s most used form of ID today, accessed by over 90% (an estimated 1.2 billion people) of residents nationwide. Some states have achieved enrollment levels higher than 99%. Assam and Meghalaya are exceptions with enrollment levels under 50%. In most states, rural and urban areas have similar enrollment levels, suggesting that efforts to reach beyond large population centers are succeeding
The Aadhaar Study
The primary purpose of this study was to give a broad cross-section of Indian residents a voice in the national discourse on Aadhaar.
This study distills insights drawn from two national household surveys on Aadhaar, conducted between May and September 2019 and subsequent human-centered design research. Capturing the experiences and perspectives of over 167,000 residents, together the surveys represent the largest primary dataset on the use of Aadhaar and, more broadly, digital ID anywhere in the world. We believe the success of Aadhaar will ultimately depend on how well the program can learn from the experiences and concerns of those who use (or are unable to use) Aadhaar across a wide range of circumstances in their daily lives. Taking residents’ perspectives into account can help better design and implement Aadhaar.
The residents’ view is under-represented in today’s discourse around Aadhaar; the world’s largest digital ID system. The State of Aadhaar initiative aims to understand what aspects of Aadhaar are working and what aspects are not for those who interact with Aadhaar in their everyday lives. This 2019 edition provides a pan-India view of residents’ experience by drawing on the largest dataset on the use of Aadhaar to date.
Enrollment levels were higher for Aadhaar than for voter ID, which was the second-most common ID. According to research, lack of Aadhaar did not appear to be a matter of personal preference. Almost all adults (95%) without Aadhaar said that they want the ID. The majority of these people had not tried to apply—mostly because there were no local enrollment centers or the center was closed (37%), people did not know where to enroll (21%), or they lacked the necessary documents (9%). Few people (5% of those without Aadhaar) said that they did not enroll in Aadhaar by choice.
Residents have errors on their Aadhaar cards, limiting the effectiveness of the ID
Four percent of people over 15 years of age reported errors in the information printed on their Aadhaar card. Error rates varied by level of education, gender, and the state. Among children, error rates were similar: 4% for 0-5 year-olds and 3% for 6-17 year-olds. People with a lower level of education and third-gender people had more errors in their cards. The most common error for information visible on the Aadhaar card was an incorrect date of birth. Error rates were lower than 1% for other fields like name, gender, address, and photographs. Despite efforts to improve the update process (such as online updates and self-service centers), it does not appear to have become easier over time. Meanwhile, the number of updates has been increasing: 24% of people who updated last did so in 2019.
Aadhaar is becoming India’s default ID. Those who have Aadhaar use it regularly and across multiple services; this is true whether or not Aadhaar is mandatory for the service, and whether the service is provided by the government or the private sector. Residents primarily use Aadhaar in analog form—by providing the card or a photocopy. Very few people use newer digital Aadhaar features; however, people across India have been slow to adopt other digital services as well. Overall, residents say that using Aadhaar is quite easy and has improved the delivery of some welfare benefits and private sector services.
A majority of residents say they benefit from Aadhaar. For a minority, Aadhaar has given them first-time access to identification—and subsequently to services such as bank accounts, SIM cards or PDS worries about the potential misuse of their Aadhaar, women (9%). Many of them went on to access services such as bank 53 rations. For most residents, the fact that Aadhaar is universally and 2% of people have experienced fraud that they account, SIM cards or PDS rations. For most residents, the fact that Aadhaar is universally accepted makes it easier. However, Aadhaar most perceived benefit is also its greatest challenge; the same residents who appreciated Aadhaar’s universality worry about the risks that come with linking all services to a single ID.