Thursday, June 21Always On-point

Government Acknowledges Facial Recognition System In The Works

The facial recognition system that our government was reported to be working on deploying is now official. A statement released by the government confirmed the plans to deploy such a system.

The Office of President released a statement on the development and you can read it below:

RE: Press Statement from The Office of The Special Advisor To The President in The Office Of The President and Cabinet

In the presence of the President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and Ambassador Huang Ping, the HikVision board chair Zongnian Chen signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with the Special Advisor to the President, Ambassador Christopher Hatikure Mutsvangwa, also in his capacity as the Science and Technology Secretary for ZANU PF.

The Memorandum of Understanding is meant to foster co-operation between the company and Zimbabwe. This move is there to grow the local ICT sector, the software which is meant to be integrated with the Facial recognition hardware which will be made locally by local developers in line with the government’s drive to grow the local ICT sector making Zimbabwe to be the number one country in Africa to spearhead the facial recognition surveillance and Artificial Intelligence system nationwide in Zimbabwe.

The agreement is fulfilling an earlier discussion held by the advanced team from the Office of the Special Advisor to the President during the President’s State visit to China, where both parties agreed to co-operate starting with the pilot smart city project in Mutare.

These donations of Facial Recognition Terminal that have a capability of deep learning facial recognition is the first of many to come. These will be implemented at all border posts, state entry points and airports for smooth transactions. The country for a long time has been in need for technology to improve efficiently at its entry points to handle large volumes of traffic.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Deputy Director to the Special Advisor , Mr Nigel Sheima Muguza further went on to state “We will also be contributing in the building of national Artificial Intelligence database in line with President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s “ Zimbabwe is Open for Business” Mantra ,we would like to add that Zimbabwe safe and secure for business. The new dispensation is eager to make Zimbabwe a middle income country by 2030. This can be achieved by use of ICT to improve the day to day lives of the citizens of this country.

The project is not only for security purposes but also to assist in disaster response and traffic control. The cameras are part of a bigger picture whereby we are moving towards smart cities with power, water management among other projects which will be done from one central location.

As long as the facial recognition system is used in a manner that’s not intrusive I’m all for it

Through the implementation of the smart cities project, Zimbabwe will be geared towards a faster and more organised reaction time in case of Natural disasters and even criminal cases. Zimbabwe is now leap frogging in to the field of big data. We have already identified a local university and a few Chinese Universities that we will be working with on big data and Perceptive Technology and Intelligent Analysis Technology. The breakthrough feature application is Artificial Intelligence and data mining. This is a new frontier in ICT and human society due to HikVision’s global leadership and innovation.

Imagine walking into a supermarket and you forgot your wallet but still be able to walk out with groceries without the headache of forgetting your wallet at home. These are some of the applications of Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition technology integrated into the retail and banking industries to make our daily lives better.

What will the cameras be used for?
Now it’s official, the Facial AI recognition software will be donated by the Chinese company HikVision which supplies surveillance solutions on an international scale. From this press release it’s clear the cameras will be used in the following areas:

Border posts
State entry points
Airports
In the long term it seems as if the cameras will be deployed in traffic, and in disaster response. This project will see Zim join a number of countries in deploying systems of this kind.

Depending on where you are the view on this technology is not exactly straight forward…

Countries such as Singapore are expected to run pilots of facial recognition systems in the coming year. In Malaysia an airline is also testing out a facial recognition system. China has over 60 airports that are reportedly equipped with such systems.

In Europe, companies have to seek your permission first before they use facial recognition technology. So it just depends on where you are coming from. In Asia it seems not to be a big deal whilst in the West the approach is more cautious.

One of the major complaints posed when it comes facial recognition systems in the US, is the cost of running these systems. With the system being developed locally it will be interesting to see how much it costs the government.

Human rights violations
Another problem that we noted when we spoke about this initially is the fact that facial recognition systems can be used for Human Rights Violations and because of this advocates for human rights are not enthusiastic about the systems. Last time we talked about the issue a lot of people in the comments did not have a problem with a system of this kind being deployed so it might not be a contentious issue here.

As long as the facial recognition system is used in a manner that’s not intrusive I’m all for it…–techzim

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