UK Changes Direction on National ID Cards

The UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced a major reversal of governmental policy yesterday, saying that ID cards will no longer be mandatory for UK citizens; only foreign nationals will be required to have them.

UK citizens can still apply for a card to help with combating id theft, trafficking and illegal employment, the Home Secretary said.

The ID card program was first proposed in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks as a way to combat terrorism. Nearly £200 million have been spent so far on the controversial project, and was slated to cost at least £4.9 billion over the next decade if not more.

 If insufficient numbers of UK citizens apply for the card, the program is more than likely to be scrapped. The Tory opposition party has already said they planned to stop it if they win the next election.

Whereas the UK is moving away from a universal ID card scheme, India has selected Nandan Nilekani, a founder and former chief executive of Infosys Technologies, to run a program to provide 1 billion universal ID cards to Indian citizens within the next three years.

The cost is estimated to be around Rs 1.5 lakh crore (somewhere near US$31 billion, I think).

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