Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Now This is a Data Set

In an important tech development that Americans may have missed, India has rolled out a digital identification system ("AADHAR") that “relies on fingerprints and eye scans to eventually provide IDs to all 1.25 billion Indians.”

While the system’s advantages of efficiency, accuracy, and security are potentially huge, its glitches have affected millions of the poorest people in the world by delaying their receipt of benefits.
The error level is less than 1%, but in the world’s second-most populous country the snag would still affect about 11 million people.
100% coverage also isn’t immediately feasible in a country “where many people live off the grid or have fingerprints compromised by manual labor or age.”

Another reason AADHAR won't work in America: beneficiaries must
first pay market prices, then have their subsidies deposited later (WSJ)
Such a system is years, perhaps decades, from being implemented in the U.S., not only because of privacy concerns but also because of technical matters. If a few Americans can’t get fingerprints read—and therefore their government payments right away---their complaints would go viral in the age of livestreaming video.

The trick would be keep the old systems in place—or have backup systems available—to handle the cases that fall through the cracks. But that would involve cost, planning, and smart people paying attention to detail, the latter of which is in short supply in private industry as well as government.

Well, the good news is that by the time such an ID system is implemented here many of the bugs will have been worked out elsewhere. The bad news is that the inventors won’t be American companies.

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