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India is to establish a system of unique identity numbers for all residents of the country, according to reports from the Indo-Asian News Service. The scheme could be the basis of a future electronic identity system for the 1.2 billion people of India, writes Stephen Gardner.

A UID (unique identifier) Authority will be established to put the scheme in place, by creating and maintaining the core database and laying down all necessary procedures for issuance and usage of UID, including arrangements for collection, validation and authentication of information, proper security of data, rules for sharing and access to information, safeguards to ensure adequate protection of privacy and all aspects related to all of these issues.

According to reports, public or private institutions including the UIDs in their databases will be permitted to share information with other agencies that do the same. Assigning of the UIDs is expected to be done through a rolling programme that will in the first instance target people listed on registers of voters. Photographs and biometric data will in due course be added to the record of each UID recipient.

The overall aim will be to make it easier for Indians to prove their identities, and thus, according to reports, "end needless harassment that people face for availing of basic government services like issuance of passports, driving licences [and] electoral identity cards." UIDs, which will be piloted in 2010, will also give access to eGovernment services.

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