Digital ID Systems
The World Bank estimates that globally, approximately 850 million people lack any form of official legal identification. Data indicates that a majority of these people are members of marginalized groups and live primarily in low-income economies like those in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Reasons for lacking an ID include the costs, documentation and geographic distance involved in acquiring it. These issues are even more prevalent for women, minorities and other vulnerable groups.

Without an ID, people struggle to fully participate in the economy and report difficulty in accessing employment, education, government programs and financial services. As such, they can quickly fall into poverty and struggle to escape it without any way of gaining a sizable income. In addition, not all ID systems are equally useful — a good ID must be verifiable and inclusive. However, this situation is quickly changing with the advent of digital ID systems like Modular Open Source Identity Platforms (MOSIP).


Digital ID systems have existed for years, with many governments adopting such ideas to expedite legal identification. For example, the inspiration for MOSIP came from India’s Aadhaar system, which transformed countless lives after its launch in 2009. Millions of Indians began to fully participate in the economy, being able to own bank accounts and make a living for themselves.

By connecting the country’s people in a much more effective way than earlier, Aadhaar helped India develop economically and helped reduce poverty significantly. In a 15-year period closely coinciding with the years since Aadhaar was launched, 415 million people left poverty — while a variety of factors must have contributed to the improvement, the digital ID system undoubtedly played a vital role.

The Creation of MOSIP

But while Aadhaar and similar systems offered hope to the millions of people lacking legal identification, the problem was not solved just yet. The multitude of countries requiring their own IDs could not simply use the existing systems, because they belonged to their respective governments. Because each country’s exact needs varied, they had to choose between creating their own systems from scratch or binding themselves to commercial vendors.

Inspired by Aadhaar, a team from the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-Bangalore) set out in 2018 to create a digital ID system that any nation could fit to its specific needs. As an open-source system, MOSIP is made so that anyone can use the software and adapt it any way they want. The MOSIP platform serves as the core technology layer to an ID, upon which a system integrator and use case layer is built. Already, nearly 95 million people have taken advantage of MOSIP-based systems, and this number will only continue to grow as more countries start to adopt the platform.


MOSIP has found success as a flexible and inclusive platform that can be adapted to any country’s needs. This success comes as a result of its modular nature, with each feature being an individual service and its use of open APIs. Without the need to meet business objectives, the IIIT-Bangalore team prioritized privacy and security as well as user feedback while creating the platform. Working with country-specific vendors, MOSIP has helped each of its partner countries develop their digital ID systems, adapting to resolve deployment issues like problems with biometric data and internet connectivity.

As the Modular Open Source Identity Platform grows, it will continue to empower millions of people to escape poverty through educational and financial opportunities. There is still much room to improve, and global collaboration to enhance the technology can help MOSIP expand as quickly as possible. Over the next 10 years, the team hopes to provide more than a billion people with legal identification.

– Namit Agrawal
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

India’s Digital Transformation
Over the last decade, India has tackled barriers like undocumented citizen identities and minimal access to formal banking and new technologies with a series of innovative programs and digital services. This article will explore India’s digital transformation.

Digital Identification and Financial Inclusion

Efforts to digitize India first took off in 2009 with the launch of a digital identity system called Aadhaar. Aadhaar aimed to provide every citizen with a digital identity. Aadhaar obtained IDs through a biometric-authenticated 12 digit number that created them according to applicant’s iris and fingerprint scans. Aadhaar has provided over 600 million voluntary applicants with UID’s (unique identifications) since its launch. The success of Aadhaar gave even the most rural populations the ability to identify themselves and avoid the hassle of ineffective systems.

Although the majority of citizens obtained digital IDs, a portion of the population still lacked access to digital banking services. Limited access excluded citizens from participating in formal banking that could improve their lives. With the demand for digital banking services increasing, India embarked on its next phase of digital innovation.

In 2014, with added backing from the Modi government, India created the Jan Dhan financial inclusion program. Jhan Dhan sought to get as many Aadhaar identity holders to participate in digital banking as possible. Within the first day of the program’s launch, Aadhaar identifications set up 10 million paperless bank accounts. The program also promised account holders accident insurance for up to 100,000 rupees (or $1,500) and an overdraft capacity of 5,000 rupees ($80).

Empowered with digital identification and banking, citizens could digitally access government services with more ease. The increase in mobile banking also created new layers for India’s digital transformation.

Demonetization and BHIM

By 2017, Aadhaar identification had become a required function for formal banking, SIM connections and income tax returns. With the majority of the population using digital services, the need for India to demonetize became more apparent. India’s total demonetization seemed daunting, but it appears to have worked well for the country. India’s decision to demonetize was so abrupt, the demand for services like Aadhaar and Jan Dhan, among others, increased rapidly. With the replacement of its old currency and the demand for digital services rising so quickly, India’s digital transformation took its next steps.

To help with the transition of demonetization, India’s Prime Minister launched BHIM (Baharat Interface For Money) in 2016. The app serves as a digital payment platform in tandem with the country’s UPI interface. BHIM also works with a 2G network, meaning that people even the most rural parts of India can access this service. This network allows UPI account holders to send and receive instant payments from non-UPI holders, which cushioned the shock of demonetization for more of the population.

The app also offers a wealth of diverse services for users and businesses. Currently, it allows users to shop/pay for services online, transfer money to family and friends, receive customer payments with no additional cost and check transaction history and account balance at any time.

Three years after its launch, BHIM collaborated with over 100 banks nationwide and in early 2018 people downloaded the app 21.65 million times for Android phones and over a million for Apple. Data that RBI and the National Corporation of India collected also demonstrated that out of 145 million UPI transactions that year, BHIM carried out 9.1 million of them.

Although India requires more work, it has dedicated itself to improvements through innovative technology and creative solutions over the last decade. As it continues its efforts, the country’s citizens should have increased access to banking services.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr