The Power of Identity

In a world of global flows of wealth, power, and images,the search for identity-collective or individual, ascribed or constructed-becomes the fundamental source of social meaning, says Nandan Nilekani

It succinctly reflects the power of identity in today’s world and this is no way more evident than in India where thousands are denied basic rights and benefits due to the lack of an identity. The UID (unique identification number, now known as Aadhaar) project2 is a critical component of the inclusive growth that we all seek. If India is going to achieve economic prosperity as well as social equality, we not only have to grow but we have to grow along a path where people are not left behind in the process of change. Identity would be an important aspect in achieving this. A national identification number or National Identity Card number is used by the governments of many countries as a means of providing their citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents with services in the areas of work, taxation, government benefits, health care, and other government related functions. The ways in which such a system is implemented varies between countries, but in most cases, an individual is issued a number at birth or when they reach a legal age (typically the age of 18).

In Chile, for instance, the National Identification Number is called RUN (Rol Único Nacional). It is used as a national identification number, tax payer number, social insurance number, passport number, driver ‘s licence number, for employment, etc. It is also commonly used as a customer number in banks, retailers, insurance companies, airlines, etc.

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