(Mike Nudelman/Business Insider)
In India, just as in the United States, there’s only so much you can do when it comes to dealing with government agencies over the phone or e-mail. At a certain point, you have to go to City Hall (or whatever other municipal office) and show some kind of identification in order to get what you want.
But if you could connect a national ID database to a video service like Skype, it cuts down on pesky travel time and waiting on lines. (It’s also a little scary, privacy-wise, but we’ll get to that.)
The idea is to associate a person’s Aadhar 12-digit identification code, almost like a Social Security Number, with their Skype account.
Then, when the citizen dials in a video call to a government office, the public servant on the other end knows for sure that they’re talking to the right person. Permits can be issued and business can be done, without anybody having to wait in line at the local equivalent of the DMV.
But it also means that Microsoft has even more knowledge of your identity than ever before. It means there are some tricky ethical and legal questions that are still going to have to be answered before this catches on in the mainstream.
On the Skype end, Microsoft President Brad Smith says in that report that this is still very much early days, but that fingerprint or facial scanners could be used to make sure that nobody is stealing your Skype account, and therefore your identity.
Aadhar is a voluntary program, but as of the end of January, just under a billion Indian citizens had enrolled. With a population of about 1.3 billion, that’s most of India on board.
If this program is a success, and it eventually comes elsewhere, it could solve a lot of headaches for anyone who’s ever had to wait in line at the DMV to fill out a form or go to City Hall to pay a bill. And at the very least, it has a lot of upside for people who don’t want to take a day off work to go wait in line.