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Over the last decade, the single greatest change that technology has wrought in India has been the proliferation of platforms for society. Starting with Aadhaar but rapidly expanding to include UPI, eSign and the entire IndiaStack, the impact of these platforms on the way in which society functions is undeniable.
As with any technology that has an oversize impact on society, these platforms have deeply divided the nation. The vocal opposition to Aadhaar culminated in its challenge before the Supreme Court and the articulation of the fundamental right to privacy. All of the other platforms have been accused of technology solutionism with opponents citing instances of exclusion, data surveillance and over-reach.
While the government’s arguments before the Supreme Court, in favour of Aadhaar, were enough to ensure its survival, not enough is known about the way the project was designed and the motivations that spurred the team of volunteers that build it. I have been involved in the Aadhaar story in different ways and have heard these stories from different perspectives. They are stories worth telling.
In this episode of Ex Machina, I sit down with Pramod Varma, Chief Architect of Aadhaar in a wide ranging interview that covers his motivations for getting involved in Aadhaar and how the various elements of India Stack came to be. We get into what he feels about the allegations of exclusion and the claim that a small group of technocrats have hijacked the agenda.
Not everyone will agree with his point of view but I doubt anyone will fault his candour.