Digital identity, datafication and social justice: understanding Aadhaar use among informal workers in south India

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Aadhaar, India's national biometric digital identity program aims to provide 12-digit number for every Indian resident. Through this Aadhaar seeks to achieve digital financial inclusion of groups like marginalized informal workers. This paper focuses on experiences of informal worker groups – of cab-drivers and domestic workers in a south Indian city who use Aadhaar as an identity for verification on online recruitment portals and gig-economy apps. The paper contributes a novel theoretical lens to the literature on ‘data justice’ and more broadly to ICT4D research. It operationalizes the cultural, economic and political dimensions of ‘abnormal justice’ as being synergistic with surveillance and datafication inherent to digital identity. Using empirical evidence of semi-structured interviews and field observations, this paper present three critical findings: current use of digital identities reifies extant cultural inequalities experienced by marginalized workers; unprotected datafication exploits the new-found digital participation of the marginalized to create further economic inequalities; and unfair and complex barriers continue to exist for the marginalized using digital identity to voice ‘informed consent’ or to access redressals to security issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-90
JournalInformation Technology for Development
Issue number1
Early online date16 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Digital identity
  • Datafication
  • Data justice
  • Biometrics
  • Surveillance

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