- Hardcover: 328 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (24 October 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199487618
- ISBN-13: 978-0199487615
- Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 2.3 x 14.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Aadhaar Effect: Why the World’s Largest Identity Project Matters Hardcover – 24 Oct 2018
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Aadhaar is the largest and most ambitious IT project ever undertaken anywhere in the world. It has the potential to improve the lives—and compromise the privacy—of a billion people. N.S. Ramnath and Charles Assisi did an excellent job of documenting its progression. Through extensive research and interviews, they bring Aadhaar’s story to life and offer important lessons to policy makers all over the world. (Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and Carnegie Mellon University and author of The Driver in the Driverless Car)
This book on Project Aadhaar is an urgent one for those in leadership roles across the world because the future is happening faster. Yet, there is no data about the future, and leaders can only imagine it. They must adapt constantly, set audacious goals in a fuzzy environment, deploy the right people, conserve resources, and use instinct as well. (Ram Charan, global advisor to CEOs and boards, author of numerous books, and articles in Harvard Business Review and Fortune magazine)
Here’s a much-needed, clear-eyed, engaging description of the Aadhaar effect, displaying the entrepreneurial team’s chutzpah, ambition, partnership ethos, efficiency, and desire to create public goods at scale. We should celebrate Aadhaar’s numerous positives, but also embrace and deal with the flux it has triggered in society. (Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School; Director, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University)
India’s overwhelming human capital coexists in an underwhelming community, caged by the state. Aadhaar attempts an audacious breakout. Its outcomes, ground-breaking or otherwise, will echo. Ramnath and Charles string people, events, and ideas with scholarly storytelling. A tour de force. (Sanjeev Aga, former CEO of Idea Cellular and board member at leading companies and non-profits.)
As a nation rebuilt its 21st century digital DNA with Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric database, journalists Ramnath and Assisi offer a fascinating ringside view, warts and all, of an incredible achievement that is India’s new tryst with destiny. (Raju Narisetti, Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism)
Ramnath and Charles work through a complex maze and come out with an engaging narrative. This book is a great sense-making exercise on India’s greatest information technology tool created so far. (Subroto Bagchi, Chairman, Odisha Skill Development Authority)
The Aadhaar Effect is a thorough and provocative analysis of one of the most ambitious efforts of our time. Project Aadhaar could well serve as a blueprint for other countries getting ready for the digital economy. (Sangeet Paul Choudary, Member of the World Economic Forum's Council on Platforms and Systems; co-author of Platform Revolution and author of Platform Scale)
The Aadhaar Effect is a lovely book. It is an “all things considered” account of the widespread changes induced in the Indian economy by Aadhaar—a biometric means for identifying every person, as well as an “all points of view are respected” explanation of the huge controversies it has generated. Very readable and very educative. (Arun Maira, former Member, Planning Commission of India; former Chairman, Boston Consulting Group, India)
Using the Lego block as a metaphor, Charles and Ramnath bring to life the evolution of Aadhaar, from being just a technology tool to a change catalyst across governments, businesses and the social sector. Clearly, much research has gone to present the potential benefits and accompanying risks. It helps readers form an informed opinion about the most important digital project of our times. (Harsh Mariwala, Chairman, Marico)
Two decades from now, India will be in a different league. Looking back then, Aadhaar will be seen as a marker of significant shifts in India’s journey towards creating accountability, governance and digital infrastructure. Whatever form Aadhaar takes, The Aadhaar Effect is an essential chronicle that documents the twists, turns, possibilities and pitfalls of the unique transformation a nation is witnessing. (Haresh Chawla, Partner, True North)
About the Author
N.S. Ramnath is a senior writer at Founding Fuel Publishing, a digitally led media and learning platform. His main interests lie in technology, business, and society, and how they interact and influence one another. A Polestar 2017 award winner, he writes a regular column on disruptive technologies and takes stock of news and perspectives from across the world. He is also involved with the data start-up How India Lives. Prior to Founding Fuel, Ramnath was with Forbes India and Economic Times as a business journalist. He has also written for The Hindu, Quartz, and Scroll. Charles Assisi is a co-founder at Founding Fuel. He writes a column in the business daily Mint. He was the managing editor at Forbes India and the founding editor of Forbes Life India. Charles earned his spurs when he introduced CHIP, the Munich-based technology magazine, to India. This assignment led him to work in newsrooms in Europe and other parts of Asia. Subsequently, the Times of India invited him to take over as its national technology editor and later as its national business editor. His work earned Charles the Polestar and Madhu Valluri Awards.
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Somewhere in the book, the authors mention that the project had many aspects of a thriller with twists and turns, conflicting forces, drama etc. Well, the book itself seems to be that! Particularly the sections on privacy, with RTI activists .vs. Privacy activists, are page turners. The book is beautifully written. At many points, when I was reading a section, I had some thoughts (ex: about fortune at the bottom of the pyramid) and as I progressed, I discovered they were exactly covered in the book. That shows a natural flow that evokes reading interest.
The book goes beyond Aadhar itself and discusses enabling digital platforms and digital services that are or could be built over Aadhar. There is a small amount of noticeable (though well-deserved) Nandan praise for his leadership abilities, his ability to conceive the larger aspects of the project and put a diverse team together. To be fair, in the chapter 'Who's afraid of Aadhar?', the book lists a collection of 50 common problems and objections to Aadhar. Nowhere else can you find such a comprehensive counter-view in one place.
At some places, the authors tend to delve on the 'larger picture', philosophically or strategically, which may be viewed as a stretch. Like, towards the end, they portray Aadhar like it's some foreign relations enabler for its learning potential for implementing large digital projects.
The angle on Aadhar being, an important, but only one of the many Lego blocks is a significant theme of the book. In the same lines, the book dwells upon future possibilities and great potential of Aadhar, rather than on how it has been useful in the development arena, the exceptions being the Direct Bank Transfer scheme and payment systems. It dwells on the architectural beauty of having a unique identity and how it can be a true transformation tool if you want to use it for development and empowerment and how the central payments infrastructure is already making it possible.
The book has a good share of the stories of getting work done. For example, with Nandan's backing by the PMO, his access to PM worried the bureaucrats,. The authors mention it as: 'It's not that he would call. It's that he *could* call'. The book is of full of such super-interesting tidbits and also many anecdotes about the dynamics between Nandan Nilekani, his colleagues and various government departments.
As you write a book review, you realize that you are not writing a review of the book, but a review of the Aadhar project itself! Thats a good thing, it means the book has achieved its goal, of pushing you to think about the project, its impact, potential and ramifications.
If you seriously think about the impact of technology in Samaj and Sarkar, if you tend to have an 'integration' view of all things tech and the power of digital platforms to transform landscapes, this book is a great read. If you have been in situations, where you have to demonstrate extraordinary leadership to bring a diverse team together to push towards a visionary goal, you must pick up this book. You will understand both, how hard it is do good work in India and how hard it isn't, i.e. if you have the commitment, the right team and undaunted persistence.
It may be waiting for you at the airport, at a book fair, at a neighbourhood store, or in Amazon. It might pick you up. Like they say, when it comes to good books, you don't choose them, they choose you.
This simple idea opens up a new world of endless possibilities and a chance to reimagine the world, much like how GPS by telling us ‘Where we are?’ catalysed the birth of Google Maps, Ubers and various other platforms that affect our every day lives.
The team at Founding Fuel has done a magnificent job of providing a holistic, big picture yet nuanced view of this journey through various lenses and what it means for India, its policy makers, technologists, entrepreneurs, businessmen, development professionals but most importantly its every day citizens.
Don’t miss this breathtaking up-close account of a new paradigm shift India seems to be at a cusp of leading globally.
The story has just begun.
For any project that is so big it is but unavoidable that it attracts lot of views and narratives and critiques, each of those bringing in more visibility to the effects it brings to the world.
What went right inside this grand project and how it can be useful to not only the world but each individual or corporate who wants to leverage the benefits of technology to cause public good is explained in this book.
This book is a thought initiator and a startup accelerator for reaching out to the 6 billions of the world where some are only focusing on the 1st billion.
All the above aspects are well covered in this short and sweet book and is a must read for every educated person of the "third world countries".
The Aadhaar debate had reached a feverish pitch last year, if only everyone who spoke about it had read this book to understand how and why it was made, they'd understand what is happening.
This is also a fascinating look at how one builds an extremely scalable technology, but at an extremely cheap cost. Highly recommended read for anyone who wants to think of dramatic change at the scale of billions.