BBC World News Horizons explores how biometrics are being used to protect identities and improve security

November 15, 2012 - 

The Eighteenth episode of the BBC Horizons series is headed to India to take a look at how the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has used biometric technology to generate a national identification system.

Broadcasting November 24 and November 25, show presenter Saima Mohsin travels to New Delhi, where the UIDAI has launched a national campaign that aims to provide everyone in the country with a unique identification code. As we’ve written extensively in the past, the program, called AADHAAR, consists of an exclusive 12-digit number generated using ten fingerprints and two iris scans of each individual.

Stored in a centralized database, UIDAI hope that this system will help India’s poor who find establishing their identity one of the biggest stumbling blocks to accessing welfare. Saima visits a homeless dweller who has used his AADHAAR ID to open a bank account and to obtain health insurance. Currently AADHAAR is enrolling one million people per day, in hopes of registering 600 million by 2014.

“It’s a highly scalable system because its holds the literally millions of records coming in every day, so we required very specialised high-performance software,” Nandan Nilekani, Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India said. “It is very ambitious to take on something like this and at this rate we hope to do about 600 million by 2014…Think of it as an ecosystem of apps, which gets built on top of an identity platform.”

Later in the episode, Saima meets the team behind Operation ASHA, a non-government organisation that’s using biometric technology to reduce the number of Tuberculosis sufferers in India, as we’ve previously reported.

Operation ASHA uses a simple to operate biometric system, which uses fingerprint ID and a computer database to alert counsellors by SMS of anyone who has missed a dose. Saima catches up with some of the slum dwellers who are benefiting from this system and finds out how Operation ASHA has already established a network of TB treatment centres. It is now extending its health services beyond India’s borders to other countries of the developing world.

The episode of Horizons will broadcast on BBC World News on Saturday 24th November at 01:30 and 08:30 GMT and Sunday 25th November 2012 at 14:30 and 20:30 GMT. The episode will also be available to view online after the broadcast at

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Adam Vrankulj is an editor for His background consists of online news writing, editing and content marketing. Adam has written for, BlogTO and was the editor and curator for the nextMEDIA and CIX Source publications. He has a degree in journalism and is passionate about science, technology and social innovation. Contact Adam, or follow him at @adamvrankulj