The Indian government is set to roll out the first phase of its ambitious ID scheme as early as this year, it has emerged. And it will be helped by Microsoft.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) project will see more involvement from private IT giants. Ex-Infosys boss, Nandan Nilekani, is heading this huge  project of providing unique identification to more than a billion people. Microsoft Research will take an  active part in executing the project.

The flag of IndiaThe Indian government is not well known for delivering its targets on time. Microsoft is rather better. But there is some urgency because the Indian government has many reasons to fear terrorism.

Nilekani hesitatingly said, “I expect the first set of UIDs will be rolled out between August 2010 and February 2011 but no word of mine can be taken as a final announcement as it is all in a PowerPoint presentation now. We are also targeting to provide these numbers to 600 million people in next five years and for that, we seek help from researchers.”

At a Microsoft Research event held in Bangalore today, Nilekani said: “I am looking forward to work with researchers on technologies like multi-lingual computing and bio-metrics. Microsoft, having such a strong commitment on research, can definitely help in UIDAI project. Let’s see how it turns out”.

P Anandan, Managing Director, Microsoft Research India said: “We’re interested in any societal challenge and we are eager to contribute. It’s an opportunity for our researchers to comprehend what the challenges involved in this particular project. Then, comes the question of collaboration. We’re definitely looking forward to it but nothing has been finalized yet.”

 Both Nilekani and Microsoft refused to divulge further details on the collaboration.

 “It’s all in phases of talks, would be to too early to give you any specific detail on collaboration,” said Nilekani in a polite tone.

“It has to match our research capabilities like multi-lingual computing or user interfaces for illiterate or coding. Research collaboration is not a planned activity, so conversations happen and then there is a start and there is no specific time-span to it”, said  Anandan.

 The chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI) has also thrown some light on a tentative date when India will see the first set of these numbers rolled out.

Nilekani also pointed out that it’s quite tough to  go through innumerable computing challenges in creating lthe world’s largest biometric database. There will be a thousand challenges to the research community as it will be the biggest biometric data base that has ever been made, he said.

Well, Mr. Nilekani, Microsoft is eager to work with you, So, no worries.

But, it’s still not clear whether the support will be sabbatical or not? 

 *EyeSee In India,  Infosys is known as infy, rather affectionately.