Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is apparently a big fan of Aadhaar. Replying to a few questions from media persons in Washington, he said that benefits of Aadhaar were high and that other countries should try and implement something similar. The comments from Bill Gates come just days before the arguments in a Supreme Court case, in which the constitutionality of Aadhaar has been challenged, conclude. Gates also said he was a friend and “admirer” of Nandan Nilekani, the senior Infosys executive who architected Aadhaar.
“The benefits of that (basic ID — Aadhaar) are very high,” Gates told PTI. “Yes, countries should adopt that approach because the quality of governance has a lot to do with how quickly countries are able to grow their economy and empower their people.”
Gates revealed that his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding several Aadhaar-like projects for the World Bank and that Nilekani was helping the organisation. “We have funded the World Bank to take this Aadhaar approach to other countries,” he said.
Interestingly, Gates also claims that Aadhaar poses no privacy risk, which is rather surprising. But then such views are not uncommon among the tech billionaires who have been accused of making billions of dollars by collecting, hoarding and selling the private data of people.
“Aadhaar in itself doesn’t pose any privacy issue because it’s just a bio ID verification scheme,” Gates said. “The individual applications that use Aadhaar, you have to look and see what’s been stored and who has access to that information. And so, application by application, you have to make sure that’s well managed. In the case of the financial bank account I think it’s handled very well.”
Gates also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for helping the Aadhaar programme. He reportedly said that Gates it is praiseworthy that Modi adopted Aadhaar so willingly.
“I’m both good friend and an admirer of Nandan Nilekani and some of the initiatives of digitisation efforts that can help with education that can help with governance,” he said.
However, not all tech experts will agree with Aadhaar assessment of Bill Gates. Cyber security experts like Bruce Schneier have slammed Aadhaar. Some organisations like Mozilla, the maker of Firefox and which has a track record of taking user-centric approach, has also slammed Aadhaar. Just two days ago Mozilla highlighted that the reports of Aadhaar data breach were alarming.
“Mozilla is deeply alarmed by recent reports that it is possible to purchase editing rights to the Aadhaar database for a mere 2,000 rupees,” a Mozilla spokesperson said. “Mozilla has long argued that the Aadhaar lacks critical safeguards. With the demographic data reportedly compromised, it is hard to see how Aadhaar can be trusted for authentication… Mozilla calls for the UIDAI to close these glaring security loopholes, and to engage an independent firm to do a security audit of the Aadhaar.”