Indian government to activate digital ID at birth

By on 21/11/2022 | Updated on 21/11/2022
Biometric eye scan
To date, around 1.34 billion Indian citizens are registered on the Aadhaar system. Image by geralt via Pixabay

The Indian government is working to expand its ‘Aadhaar’ digital ID scheme by assigning unique identification numbers to citizens at the time their birth is registered.

Sixteen states in India currently link Aadhaar ID numbers to birth registrations. The Indian government’s plan to expand the programme means that all 28 states could start issuing Aadhaar digital ID cards at the same time as birth certificates in the coming months.

First introduced by the government in 2009, Aadhaar cards – each of which features a unique 12-digit number – were officially rolled out by Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, in 2014. The cards are used by enrolled citizens to apply for jobs and book railway tickets, for example, and contain data that are used by government to prioritise and economise welfare services.

The Aadhaar system is overseen by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority tasked to provide each Indian citizen with a unique digital ID that cannot be fabricated or duplicated.

Earlier this month, Aadhaar tweeted images that showed senior officials from the government of India’s eastern state of Bihar and UIDAI speaking at a state workshop to “promote Aadhaar usage and to push enrolment for 0-5 years and other residents below 18 years of age”.

For a citizen enrolled on Aadhaar ID at birth, the Aadhaar card initially takes demographic information linked with the digital IDs of the parents. Biometric data using fingerprints and eye scans are recorded when the citizen turns five and are updated when they turn 15. UIDAI is expected to work with the Registrar General of India to develop the system so that all states are able to issue Aadhaar ID at the same time as birth certificates. 


According to UIDAI’s online dashboard, to date, around 1.34 billion citizens are registered on the system. The current population of India is 1.41 billion people.

More than a thousand schemes across India’s state and central government use Aadhaar data to identify and authenticate recipients of state benefits. There are currently more than twice the number of such schemes run by state governments (650) than by central government (315).

Read more: From helping India through COVID to integrating services across Europe: how governments are using digital ID

The Aadhaar system has attracted backlash from activists, with some pointing out the risk it poses to hundreds of thousands of undocumented Indians and migrants whose fundamental rights it left unprotected. Many also voiced concerns that Aadhaar data had been linked to private companies.

In March this year, law and privacy experts urged the Indian government to put in place a data protection policy before implementing data-sharing plans to monetise public sector data.

The call came after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) unveiled a draft policy document outlining a project to make shareable all non-sensitive data created or held by government departments and authorised agencies.

Read more: Indian government must address AI ethics in education ‘as utmost priority’

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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