I would like to offer you a new word – Angritude. It is, I believe, the word of this generation. A word that defines the conflicting emotions of much of modern life. A word that symbolises the internal conflict many millions feel around the world and yet it is a word that until 5 minutes ago, no one in the world ever used, because I just invented it.
Within this new word, we have the seemingly conflicting emotions which millions of people feel. It is the sense of simultaneous anger and gratitude we experience as a result of the increasing regulations and intrusions from officialdom. They make every-day life harder but it is done to make us safer.
Nowhere is that bubbling sense of angritude more keenly felt than in airports. We remove our shoes, wait in ever increasing queues, are scrutinised and photographed, sometimes finger printed and then have to jettison our bottles of water, medicines, cans of drink and the odd bit of make-up for the 100 metres it takes to get through security, only to buy them again in the shops we can almost see from the bin in which we are throwing everything away.
Use the word angritude as often as you can – because it’s time only having just come, may soon be waning because there are voices which claim that within in the near future you may not need to rid yourself of liquids when travelling by plane.
In the past year and a half I have visited over 30 countries filming a new business series for BBC World News. I’ve been talking to people who are trying to tackle some of the biggest challenges mankind is facing over the next decade.
New threats and new regulations — mean the safety industry is booming. In the decade ahead there’s certainly going to be more innovation. But how they’re used and how they affect our lives are going to be the biggest questions.
Air travel is one of the most visible ways in which that industry is touching the lives of millions. The number of air passengers globally is expected to rise to over three and a half billion by 2015. We’re going to have to devise smarter, more efficient and non-obtrusive security systems if we’re to deal with the sheer numbers of passengers across the world.
The European Commission has agreed to relax the limit on liquids this year if new screening measures are bought in. Currently there is a complete ban on liquid items over 100 milliliters in people’s hand luggage. Water, cosmetics and toiletries cannot be carried on to planes.
That change could be made possible by a development from a relatively small company called Kromek based in the North-east of England. The Company now has over 60 employees, 19 of which have PhD’s. Together they just might have an invention which has the potential to make air travel simultaneously safer and easier.
Kromek have invented a bottle scanner which is about the size of an office photo copier and has now received E-U certification to provide digital, colour x-ray liquid detection systems to airports that will be in use when the ban is lifted next year. The security staff put your bottle in the machine- it takes 20 seconds or so to scan it and then the bottle is handed back to the passenger.
There is many a slip between cup and lip and just because it appears to work at the demonstration I saw in the UK, doesn’t mean it can be introduced seamlessly throughout the world’s major airports – but the signs look promising.
Elsewhere in the world, my colleague Saima Mohsin who has been co-presenting the BBC World News Horizons programme with me, has also been looking at how technology is changing the world.
In India Saima saw how the country is introducing a biometric system called Aadhar – meaning Foundation in Hindi. It provides every Indian with a unique identity code based on biometric data. Angritude may also be at the heart of this development. Many leading Indian commentators have questioned the legal validity of the whole exercise and Sri. Jijeesh P B published a book called ‘How a Nation Is Deceived’ about the issue. While there are concerns about the potential for a restriction of civil liberties in compulsory biometric identification, there are equally strong views about its benefits. The aim is for everyone to have an exclusive 12-digit number. It’s already on the way – enrolling a million people a day.
While there is clearly much opposition to the new system there is also support. Rajab Ali Ansari spoke to Saima about the ID system. He lost all his ID, after falling out with his family five years ago. He now lives in a shelter, despite fears of sharing his information with the authorities – he registered. He says that “Because of this unique ID number I’ve managed to open a bank account and get myself health insurance as well. It’s made my life a lot easier, because before I was being hassled for ID by the police even whilst travelling to work. Now I feel like a real citizen of India. It’s given me a real form of identity.”
Perhaps a less contentious an issue is the application of biometric technology in tackling the scourge of Tuberculosis in India. 400 million of India’s poor find establishing their identity as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to accessing welfare. Saima went to meet a team behind Operation ASHA, which is using the technology to help reduce the number of sufferers.
As a disease — TB is second only to HIV-AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide. 8.8 million people fell ill with tuberculosis in 2010 while 1.4 million died from the disease. 60 percent of all new cases occur in Asia.
It is difficult for counsellors to track all their patients. Many of whom are India’s poor slum dwellers – for them following a long course of treatment Is not a priority. The goal is to track patients, using their biometric data and a database to map out a course of treatment. If TB sufferers miss a dose – a councillor nearby is alerted via SMS — they then track them down to administer the drugs. Last year Operation ASHA treated 18,000 people successfully.
This is a symbol of the new deal modern citizens make with modern states. They know more about us, more about our movements and more about our personal lives than ever before. We live in an age of Big Data and whilst that raises justifiable concerns about possible abuses of civil liberties it also offers the possibility of great advances.