Aadhaar playing a huge role in contributing to Digital India programme: Neel Ratan, PwC

PricewaterhouseCooper’s (PwC) regional managing partner for North India and the global consultancy major’s government practice leader, Neel Ratan, spoke to ET’s Neha Alawadhi about the possibilities to leverage the Aadhaar platform, the progress of Digital India, and the opportunities presented by the November 8 currency exchange initiative.

PwC is involved in Digital India projects and was a key consultant to the government for building the crowd-sourced platform, MyGov. Excerpts:

What is your assessment of the prospects for Aadhaar integration in India after demonetisation?

After demonetisation, there has been a surge in the number of Aadhaar enrolments, with December 2016 alone accounting for 60% increase from November. This has helped enhance the efficiency of the Direct Benefits Transfer programme.

Aadhaar-enabled transactions are certainly playing a huge role in contributing to the government’s mission of making India a less-cash economy built around the BHIM app and the Aadhaar-Enabled Payment System. Demonetisation has triggered the surge in the use of Aadhaar, and many other sectors are taking cues and exploring Aadhaar for digital authentication and eKYC.

What are the pre-requisites to help achieve the government’s target of increased digital payments?

There was an era in which cash was cheaper than digital money and digital payments were disincentivised, with surcharge and service charges being levied on payments. So, people preferred to transact using cash. Apart from digital payment modes, the government is also conducting various sensitisation workshops across the country to help spread awareness about the benefits of going digital.

While some private players have embraced Aadhaar, what other ways can they leverage the UID for business?

There are many options available for exploring the potential of Aadhaar for digital authentication apart from eKYC. Some of these could be hotel check-in or check-outs, background verifications, digital lockers, and e-Sign or merchant empanelment by financial institutions.

If privacy and data sharing concerns are diligently addressed, Aadhaar may be immensely helpful in integrating diverse databases, offering a customised bouquet of services to consumers. This will be one step beyond identification and authentication, which is the core purpose of electronic identity. This unified database could be the source-data for analytics, helping extract insights on customer preference and purchase patterns.

[Copyright by Neha Alawadhi]