It's new life for me: Nilekani on UIAI project

Nandan Nilekani

Nilekani, whose appointment marks induction of a competent corporate professional into a Cabinet rank post, said the assignment will be full of challenges as it will require him to interface with a large number of people in the government circle.

"It is a new life for me," he said when asked whether he would miss Infosys, a company he had co-founded 28 years ago along with N R Narayana Murthy, now chief mentor of the IT giant.

Asked how he will cope up with the multi-layered decision making process in the government circle, Nilekani, who resigned from Infosys to lead the newly created Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI) said he knew it would be a different world.

"I certainly think it is a different world," the 54-year-old IT expert said expressing confidence that his friend Ram Sevak Sharma who takes over as Secretary and CEO of UIAI will help him navigate the Government system.

Sharma, who did his Masters degree in Mathematics from IIT, Kanpur and Computer Science from California University, is a 1978 batch IAS officer.

"I have my friend Ram Sevak to help me navigate through the system. We understand that to accomplish something, it requires authority to interface with large number of people and to create a compelling benefit story, to articulate that (and) to build a consensus," Nilekani, who took charge of UIAI on Thursday, said.

The government had earlier appointed him the chairman of the UIAI, a cabinet rank post, and allocated Rs 120 crore for the ambitious project in the current fiscal.

Nilekani, also author of the book 'Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century', said the first set of unique identification numbers will be issued to the citizens within 12-18 months as announced by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his Budget speech.

He said his team would be a judicious mix of talents from government as well as private sector.

"The project would require advance technology as it will involve biometrics and parallel processing. So we will also look for globally renowned technical experts in certain areas," he said.

The identification numbers, Nilekani said, will not only provide an identity to citizens but also help them in obtaining benefits of government schemes.

On the total budget of the project, he said it would be premature on his part to comment it. "We are very confident that whatever is spent on this project will be minimum than what we recoup by the efficiency gains in the economy."

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