Universal Identification Authority of India

For uprooting corruption with a 12-digit code.

In the past decade, India has combated poverty through social welfare—guaranteeing jobs (and a daily wage of roughly $60) to poor villagers. But in a country of 1.2 billion people, only 200 million have a driver's license; most go without any ID. That's enabled rampant fraud. Billionaire Nandan Nilekani, cofounder of Indian tech giant Infosys, is now helming a government-backed solution: the world's first robust identity system that can be fully verified online. New IDs have already been issued to 450 million people, which can also be useful anytime an ID is needed, such as for travel.

Users enroll in the program, have their fingerprints and irises scanned, and receive a 12-digit ID number that can be connected with a bank account. When receiving payment, they'll get a text message that tells exactly how much money they're owed. Rather than having money skimmed off the top waiting for a payment (almost always in cash in India) to arrive and be picked up, users can head to a UID-friendly business, scan their fingerprint, and be paid in full rather than hope for a fraction of it to reach their wallets.

[Illustrations by Kristiaan Der Nederlanden]