The Zimbabwean Government is believed to be importing a mass facial recognition system, Cloudwalk Technology, as they look to ramp up security efforts. The system is being imported as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The Belt and Road Initiative is a is a development strategy proposed by the Chinese government that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between China and foreign powers. Initially it was a Eurasian agreement that would see China deal exclusively with European countries but this move seems suggest the initiative is now going global. Or maybe Zimbabwe is just getting preferential treatment.
What is this cloudwalk technology?
Cloudwalk technology was launched in February this year which means Zimbabwe is one of the first countries to adopt this kind of technology. The technology has been described as 3D light facial technology. It’s been touted as a better service than 2D facial recognition. 2D facial recognition was not reliable because it could not easily recognize darker skin shades which limited it’s functionality.
CloudWalk provides hardware products such as facial recognition terminals, facial recognition physical access controls, and big data and facial recognition platforms for use by commercial airlines and police departments.
Still I have a lot of questions to ask and understand before making a verdict on the technology…
How good is this technology and who else is using it?
Cloudwalk’s big data facial recognition technology is used by 23 police departments and was also used in China’s ‘Police Cloud’ effort but this program was ended after Human Rights Watch complained about the program.
The report by Global Times states that :
The company is also developing an AI system which can recognize different people from their gait, shape or haircut and could be added to facial recognition,
Does this mean the system being deployed is not yet complete. If the system is incomplete what will happen once the provider of this tech has a more updated solution. Will we have to buy new hardware or a software update will do the trick?
Are the government’s priorities right?
At a time where government cannot afford to pay doctors or to buy medical supplies it comes into question whether this type of advancement is necessary. Yes technological advancement excites us but when technology is implemented without a particular use case then the question becomes whether this technology is necessary at all.
Will the technology be used appropriately?
The introduction of this technology is a welcome step but it’s a cause for concern as well…
As always, when a surveillance tool is introduced we have to ask whether this tool might be used for nefarious purposes. In a country such as ours where there have been multiple human rights violations over the years I am genuinely concerned whether this technology will be used for greater good. Hopefully the facial recognition will not become a political tool used to hound opposition members.