Sri Lanka has decided to launch its own ‘Aadhaar’. India has agreed to provide a grant to implement a ‘Unitary Digital Identity framework’, apparently modelled on the Aadhaar card. On Monday i.e., 7 February 2022, Sri Lanka’s Cabinet decided that the government will “prioritise” the implementation of the Framework as a national level programme.
“Under the proposed Unitary Digital Identity Framework, it is expected to introduce a personal identity verification device based on biometric data, a digital tool that can represent the identities of individuals in cyberspace, and the identification of individual identities that can be accurately verified in digital and physical environments by combining the two devices,” according to a statement released by the Department of Government Information on Tuesday.
This initiative follows bilateral talks between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2019. Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal made by Mr. Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Minister of Technology, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with India, in order to obtain the grant and take the project forward.
This move comes amid $ 1.4 billion economic assistance from India to Sri Lanka, to help the nation cope with its dollar crunch, and import food, medicines and fuel amid frequent shortages.
The former Mahinda Rajapaksa government mooted a similar Electronic-National Identity Card or E-NIC, that was opposed by privacy advocates on the grounds that the state would have full access to citizens’ personal data in a central database. Now, the response on this renewed effort is awaited.