Science for All

Science for All. Interesting factoids on #India: more cellphones than toilets & plans for national #biometric numbers

Nationwide connectivity is transforming India in other ways as well. Today, the country has 900 million cell phones. “Only about 35% of Indian homes have toilets. About 60% have mobile phones,” says Jairam Ramesh, who as India’s minister for rural development is searching for innovative solutions for poverty alleviation (see p.1034).

Prime Minister Singh threw his weight behind the venture, and in July 2009 the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was formed. Its ambitions have since grown: UIDAI is now striving to assign a random 12-digit “Aadhaar” ID number to every resident of India, based on photos, iris scans, and a full set of 10 fingerprints. Some critics blast the program as far too ambitious to succeed. Others say it feels like Big Brother; they point out that security agents will have access to the database. Nevertheless, 300 million people have received Aadhaar numbers since the authority’s enrollment centers, scattered across the country, opened in September 2010.

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