Nandan Nilekani responded via e-mail to questions from Outlook. Excerpts:
The outlay for the UID project has been increased manifold even as some big social projects have seen falling outlays.
The UIDAI would be entering its operational phase in 2010-11 wherein the commitment to start issuing unique numbers would begin. It will be conducting pilots in a number of states in the coming months. The amount would be required for hardware, setting up the Central Identities Data Repository as well as enrolment costs.
Apart from authentication of identity, will there be any other purpose associated with the UID number?
The UID is a very complex and challenging project not only in terms of technology but also in terms of scale, sustainability and adoption. The UIDAI would provide online authentication of identity based on the UID number. If adopted in a number of programmes, the UID will have immense benefit for both government and residents.
You’re now the chairman of the Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects. What is the purpose of this group and what would be your role?
It will look at the IT processes and systems of projects...all these major projects will be dependent on IT systems to a large extent for their functioning and the group would look into the issues relating to them.
How will you coordinate you role in the UID and TAGUP?
The TAGUP would also have other members and professionals to chart out a course. I am confident we would be able to recommend processes that would be useful for these projects.
These projects have larger ramifications than the UID. What does this huge mandate mean for you?
It is a huge challenge. I thank the finance minister for bestowing this responsibility on me.
The pace of e-governance rollout has been slow. How will the new group help here?
The terms of reference and other details of the group are being worked out and will be clear in the coming months.
Open Source and Linux as a platform is gaining acceptance in the government, especially at the state level. Should there be a progressive move to adopt open source software in the government?
I think technology choices have to be made as appropriate for each project
Do we see you formally joining politics soon?
I’m grateful to the government for giving me this opportunity to contribute.