India to roll out digital health IDs for over 1.3 billion people

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a program that will create a unique digital health identity for over 1.3 billion people and allow them to access their records online, part of an effort to enhance efficiency in a healthcare system constrained by the pandemic.

The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, unveiled Monday, aims to create digital health infrastructure to provide universal health coverage with unique health identification numbers for all citizens. This will allow citizens to link all their health records to this ID through a mobile application.

The launch comes amid concerns over privacy and growing surveillance in India, given there is no data protection law in the country and a panel of lawmakers are scrutinizing a bill. Critics have said the government is using the pandemic to make a case for digitizing health records.

"Today begins a mission that has the power to bring a revolutionary change in India's health facilities," Modi said in a speech. People can now use the digital platform to access a host of health services, he added.

"With effective and reliable data, medical treatment will be better and cost will be reduced," said Modi.