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Insurance Article

How Aadhaar Compares to Other Biometric National Identification Systems Around the World

December 22 2017
Aadhaar Biometric Identification Programme

Here’s how the world’s largest national biometric identification programme compares to other such systems around the world

While Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identification number issued by UIDAI, facilitates availing benefits of Government schemes and benefits, the potential misuse of Aadhaar number and subsequent data can't be ruled out.

Most of the people you know must have an Aadhaar card by now. This white piece of paper, sporting the tricolour at the top, and your photo and a barcode at the bottom is being relentlessly pushed by the government. The reason being given for the adoption of an Aadhaar card is that it will help in bringing about effective and better governance, as well as fast, efficient distribution of benefits and subsidies periodically provided by the administration. Furthermore, the government is also mandating linking of Aadhaar card with some of the essential services to continue deriving benefits from them.

The Aadhaar card can be described as a national biometric identification programme that is undoubtedly the largest of its kind in the world. According to Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, more than 111 crore people now have an Aadhaar card, making up for 99% of the Indian adult population.

The programme is expected to further broaden its reach, as increasing number of companies are now asking for Aadhaar as a way of identity verification. There have been a number of information leaks in the recent past that have put concerns over the security of Aadhaar data and infringement of privacy. But, Aadhaar is not the first or only biometric identification system in the world, there are a few more countries which have them, and here’s how it stacks up against them.


The country has a national identification system called MyKad. The MyKad card is mandatory for all permanent residents in the country and is renewable every 5 years. Malaysia also became the first country to come up with biometric security information housed on a computer chip coupled with photo identification, all in a single card, when it introduced it in 2001.

The card is multi-purpose and the country has itself developed the technology for its usage as there were no similar projects anywhere else. The main differentiating factor that MyKad card has with Aadhaar card is that, first of all, it is a smart card with a computer chip on it and not just a piece of paper. This enables the card to store personal information within it, rather than on a centralized government database.

Also, unlike Aadhaar card, the user is in control of when and where he wants to use the card and for which applications. This freedom of choice gives the user the assurance that he is in control of his private information, thus bringing him peace of mind. The card can be used to serve a variety of purposes such as a digital wallet, driving license and even an ATM card.

The card also comes with a contactless funds transfer feature that can be used for making payments at public infrastructure places such as toll plazas, car parks and railway stations. Aadhaar does not have this feature, but it is possible in the future with the introduction of Aadhaar Pay.


Ghana first had a national identification programme in 1970, but the implementation of ‘Ghana card’ was put before the cabinet only in 2002. The Ghana card is similar to the Aadhaar card in India and was formulated with a view of delivering government benefits to the public in a fast, effortless manner.

The programme is overseen by the National Identification Authority (NIA), which is similar to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that we have here. Another similarity that the Ghana card has with Aadhaar is that all the biometric data is stored by the government in a centralized database.

Just like Indians are being told to link their Aadhaar number to bank accounts, the focus with Ghana card is also on banking transactions. The Government of Ghana also provides select organisations with services such as biometric verification, personal information verification and online identity validation among others.


This Southeast Asian country also has a national identity card called Karta Tanda Penduduk (KTP). This card comes in two variants: a plain version and an electronic version (eKTP). The biometric information is stored in a centralized government database, similar to Aadhaar. The primary purpose of the card is identity verification, but is also being used to streamline bureaucratic processes; something which Aadhaar is also expected to help the Indian government with.

While registering for KTP, all ten fingerprints are taken and stored in the database, but only two are put on the computer chip on the card. The Indonesian government plans to make eKTP a must for availing all of the schemes offered by it. Just like telecom regulator in India has made linking of phone numbers with Aadhaar compulsory, in Indonesia a person cannot get a SIM card without eKTP.

The card has already made deep inroads into the country’s populace who face restrictions in banking services, can’t go through immigration and can’t enjoy benefits of government’s healthcare programme without KTP.


The government agency responsible for running the national identification programme is Brazilian Association of Companies in Digital Identification Technology (ABRID). The identity cards are meant to streamline bureaucratic processes and enhance citizen’s convenience by making use of a single card for all identification purposes. It is also a proof of citizenship, which is not the case with Aadhaar card.

Brazil is aggressively pushing for biometric authentication when it comes to banking transactions, and has also seen some success in this regard. It plans to do away entirely with the card system, resorting only to fingerprint authentication for tasks such as withdrawal of money from ATMs.

The usage of fingerprint authentication is similar to the Aadhaar Pay app that we have for merchants in rural India. With this app, users can authenticate bank transactions with their fingerprints using only a biometric fingerprint scanner, and their smartphones.

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