The Aadhaar Example

Societal benefits of the widespread use of digital technologies by the public administrations will be huge. Equally huge will be the potential of misuse. This potential will unfold incrementally and therefore hardly noticed or almost irreversible. But rejecting the use of digital technologies is no (smart) option.  Rather (digital) institutional design is key.

India‘ Aadhaar ID system may serve as a good example what I mean by unfolding incrementally and irreversibly. In 2009 established on voluntary basis to help the poor get welfare benefits, it quickly became the world’s largest biometric ID system. Modi made it de facto mandatory to fight corruption and inefficiency. 99% of India’s 1.3 billion total population are now enrolled in Aadhaar. As a result the Aadhaar ID is de facto needed for a mobile contract, credit card, insurance, social allowance, or even for train tickets… And of course, every transaction linked to Aadhaar is tracked by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI).

For a full story on Aadhaar see

HMRC’s estimate of total spend on digital transformation

The HRMC may serve as a good example for the digital transformation efforts public administrations are quietly but resolutely making. Their current investment plan includes expenditures on digital transformation in the amount of GBP 332m in 2016/17, GBP 221m in 2017/18, GBP 194m in 2018/19, GBP 172m in 2019/20 and GBP 134m in 2020/21. This adds up to an investment of more than GBP 1 billion over the next five years – just in digital technologies. Not even included are the accompanying investment costs for estates, supporting compliance and so on. The overall costs of the transformation process add up to more than GBP 2 billion in five years.