Infosys co-founder and former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Nandan Nilekani, expressed satisfaction on the continuation of his dream project Aadhaar, which provides every citizen a social security number and proof of identity, by the current NDA government.
Nilekani resigned as chairman of the UIDAI in early 2014 to contest for general elections from the Bengaluru South constituency, after enrolling half of India’s population for the unique identity number.
Speaking after accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award at the third Express IT Awards programme organised by Indian Express Group in Bengaluru on Friday, Nilekani said, “I am delighted that the NDA government has embraced Aadhaar and given it so much momentum. When I left Aadhaar, we had 600 million cards, now there are 940 million. It will reach a billion mark in the next three to four months.”
He also expressed happiness that the Narendra Modi government has taken the Aadhaar project to the next level by linking old age pensioners and saving Rs 2,000 crore. The government has also saved $2.5 billion in one year by linking LPG users to Aadhaar numbers, he said.
Nilekani also expressed confidence that India could become a developed nation with the government giving impetus on adopting the Digital India theme, which involves using several digital initiatives such as digital locker, electronically opening bank accounts and mobile to mobile payment mechanism among others.
“The entire stack is going to transform governance and business. For the first time, we are going to do paperless, cashless transactions on mobile phones. I think that will change the society, our country, business and government and make India a developed nation,” Nilekani said.
He also recalled how he joined his mentor N R Narayana Murthy in founding and building Infosys as India’s second largest IT services company.
Speaking on the occasion, Murthy listed Nilekani among the four greatest contributors to India’s public governance system. The other three in his list are Prof. M S Swaminathan, Verghese Kurien and Sam Pitroda. “The four people have clearly transformed India like nobody else,” he said.
Murthy also praised Nilekani for making Aadhaar a reality.
“The identity has come to all of us because of Aadhaar. Financial inclusion and efficiency in public governance system has improved because of Aadhaar. Therefore, I think it is proper that we are paying tribute to Nilekani,” he said.
Recalling Nilekani’s contribution in building Infosys, Murthy said it was during Nandan’s tenure Infosys witnessed the best growth. He was a man who looked at everything based on data and facts. “There is no doubt at all that his role at Infosys was very crucial and we are all very grateful for him to leading Infosys. His story did not stop at Infosys. He went on to do something truly extraordinary in the technological history of India in so far as public governance system is concerned,” Murthy said.
Infosys CEO and MD Vishal Sikka, who received the Newsmaker of the Year Award, said he was proud to receive the award along with Nilekani and in the presence of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy. Stating that his last 15 months stint at Infosys as “an amazing journey”, he said he has been leading the company on the value-based foundation laid by founding members of the company.
Later, Deepak Ravindran, founder, Lookup, a start-up company and Greg Moran, founder, Zoomcar, narrated their experience of starting their respective companies despite several hurdles and challenges.
Union minister for communications & IT Ravi Shankar Prasad gave away awards to the winners across 11 categories, which attracted over 350 entries.