How could Blockchain magic wand make Aadhaar more secure and accurate

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Could Blockchain magic wand make Aadhaar more secure and accurate
Aadhaar – a Sanskrit word that means ‘foundation’, or ‘base’ – was designed to reach even the most excluded residents and those least likely to possess an official identity: women, migrants, children and those living in hard-to-reach areas. Underpinning this ambition was the Indian government’s recognition that proof of identity is a key driver of socio-economic development, enabling individuals to access vital services such as healthcare, education, mobile and financial products, and a myriad of government subsidies.

Many western countries have failed, shunned, similar nationwide projects due to high cost and very hard to implement unique identity schemes, whereas India has proven that this can actually broadly work.

Privacy has been a key focus in the recent debate on Aadhaar, with main concern on ‘data security’.

  • Whether data stored in the Central Identities Data Repository is secure?

  • Are the APIs offering access to this data secure?

  • As we link more and more data (like bank accounts and other personal / governmental data etc.), are we making the Aadhaar too big to fail? or too easy to hack everything?

  • Are the chances of Mass Identity theft imaginable?

  • Can Governments choose to misuse this data and run unwarranted Surveillance on its citizens?

These are all valid concerns that UIDAI and Government should take very seriously and work towards mitigating these risks, as far as possible.

Blockchain to the rescue There maybe a disruptive solution to most of these problems. It’s called “crowdsourcing with decentralisation”. It has worked for Linux and Wikipedia where millions of users get together voluntarily towards a common cause. With Bitcoin (Blockchain), the decentralised crowdsourcing started getting “economic incentive” too. It has proven to work at large scale with accurate data / transactions, curated by the crowd.

The rise of decentralisation ushered in by blockchain technology has offered up a practical new way to manage Digital Identity. Self sovereign identity puts us firmly in control of our own personal data and  crowdsourcing can help in verifying identity claims that prove who we are. Crowdsourcing along with decentralization would help gathering more authentic information and eliminate corruption to receive benefits for services such as healthcare, education, government subsidies and increasing the user privacy and security.  It can be pictured as a Aadhaar app which is a secure, digital drawer of verified identity claims that proves who you are are.

We can create an  ecosystem to manage digital identity  where both the users and businesses get the benefits of a hassle free way to exchange information at reduced cost. It also ensures privacy and trust, where transactions are secure, authenticated and verifiable and endorsed by involved participants. Users and entities contributing to the ecosystem can earn monetary benefits when doing transactions such as attestation , verification or proof of identity is to be shared. Aadhaar Coins add the economic incentive, enabling the users and entities to make transactions, which are stored on the blockchain ensuring privacy and trust.  

What if, UIDAI opens up to this mechanism. They can consider the following,

  1. Secure every users adhaar and all linked data onto encrypted blockchain.

  2. Anonymise the user data, use private and public keys concepts (similar to how Bitcoin works)

  3. Create an economic incentive for users to upload, share & validate the data. Crowd curation for data validation can be very powerful

  • For example, create an Aadhaar coin.

    • Each user gets a few aadhaar coins for uploading and linking their data on the platform

    • Users can get paid for “accurate” validation of others data.

      • Validators can be like miners, and they can get ratings for doing accurate validations and be compensated accodingly

    • Users can share their basic data with others for free. For verified data sharing, they need to pay in Aadhaar coin.

Aadhaar coin could be linked with and pegged to INR, or its value could driven by supply demand (as in the case of Bitcoin).

Why could this work, any precedences?

  • Bitcoin as a parallel peer to peer global financial secure currency has worked already.

  • Linux as open source platform has become “more secure” than Microsoft, primarily due to power of the crowd

  • Wikipedia has most accurate content.

What are the big challenges

  • This concept is very new, and disruptive. It may be harder to get internal buy-in within the Government to even consider this proposal.

  • Government will have to minimise their role and lose control. They can become a “super node” in the platform and mainly facilitate the community collaboration

  • Government and Community will need to trust each other and in such partnership’s potential, which maybe first of its kind.

Aadhaar coin as a concept makes sense at an idea level. Admittedly though, devil is in the detail, and implementation will be hard. But it’s definitely an effective and interesting way to make the crowdsourced Aadhaar platform more secure, highly accurate, better curated by the community, and more scalable.

Blockchain driven crowdsourced Aadhaar platform could be the magic wand India needs, to make it work flawlessly, if they are willing to lose control and truly decentralise it.

 

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