In a move which has raised serious concerns, it is stated that the UID authorities have decided to use Windows applications for enrolment of the billion Indians who are going to be issued the UID.

It is understood that though in its technology statement, Aadhaar, puts on record its commitment to using open technological standards and mandates that all ‘middleware’ used in Aaadhaar must be vendor neutral it is stated that the client enrolment software used is only compatible with Windows, the proprietary operating system owned by Microsoft.

This has created a serious issue in Kerala where the state policy supports only Free and open source software (FOSS). It has turned out to be a vexatious issue because Virtual Device Managers – that provide an interface for applications to devices such as biometric devices – are not Linux-compatible.

 Mr  Ashok Dalwai, Deputy Director-General, UIDAI, said in a recent interview to Hindu that this is a “Kerala-specific issue.” He confirmed that all enrolment software is “purely for the Windows platform.” He also stated that “For now, we have asked Kerala to go ahead with laptops with Windows. Our developers will work towards Linux compliance later.”

FOSS activists find the proposal to “migrate to Linux later” unacceptable. Says Prabir Purkayastha of the Delhi Science Forum: “This is doubly problematic as it would drive an organisation [in Kerala] which is on an open platform to a closed platform, harming their own work. It also violates the UIDAI’s declared policy.”

It is unfortunate that the project which is expected to be a national Icon and is headed by a technology specialit Mr Nandan Nilekani has to adopt a strategy which can make India ever dependent on Microsoft perhaps as a shortcut to speed up the project. At a time that Indai as well as Russia are trying to develop their own operating systems, UIDAI adopting a dependence on Microsoft is a retrograde step.

UIDAI is already being criticised for not adopting a “Citizens only” identity and wasting the entire resource for an effort which is likely to be without commensurate benefits to the nation. UIDAI as yet is also not providing the confidence as regards Information security. Now there seems to be a third front on which UIDAI is raising an alert that it is not going in the direction which it is supposed to be going.

The developments seem to indicate that  Mr Nandan may be getting overpowered slowly by the vested interests and we will not be surprised if after the initial pilots, Mr Nandan excuses himself of the responsibilities paving the way for some body more flexible to take over. I hope I am wrong.

Naavi of naavi.org.

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