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Zimbabwean Government Begins Building Traffic Surveillance Systems

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology will soon be applied on local roads after a Chinese company, Hikvision, and a local start-up were given the nod by Government to mount high-tech surveillance cameras on some sections of Harare’s streets in a bid to curb road accidents.

In addition to preventing traffic infractions, the surveillance system can also be used to curb other forms of crime such as robbery.

Among the products that were being showcased at the launch, the traffic surveillance cameras, which work well even during the night, became an instant hit with delegates after officials from the company showcased some of the unsettling traffic accidents captured at a road intersection in the capital recently.

The move to improve safety in public places is in line with the smart cities initiative launched in Harare in March this year.

A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently.

This includes data collected from citizens, devices, and assets that is processed and analyzed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services.

The use of closed-circuit cameras to promote safety in public spaces and roads is not new and would not be unique to Zimbabwe. South Africa makes extensive use of cameras along its highways to ensure that drivers stay within speed limits and observe traffic regulations.

In countries such as the United States and parts of the United Kingdom, cameras are used both on highways and to monitor most public spaces. This is a way to deter criminal activity in public spaces. The use of technology to maintain safety on Zimbabwe’s roads is in sync with global developments.

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However, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe expressed reservations towards the interception of such systems as long as the government prophesies ignorance when it comes to data protection laws which violates right to privacy when not fully observed.

On their website, MISA Zimbabwe said there was nothing wrong for government to intercept surveillance systems as long as the authorities will recognize the human rights obligations which relates to data protections laws.

“People’s data or personal information must be protected because people have an inherent right to privacy. Locally, Section 57 of the Constitution guarantees the right to privacy. The use of surveillance cameras and the processing of the data collected must, therefore, be within the confines of the constitutional right to privacy.” said MISA Zimbabwe on their official website.

“In Zimbabwe, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act of 2002 (AIPPA), is meant to promote data protection. Unfortunately, technological advancements in data collection and data processing have been so rapid that AIPPA is now outdated.” added MISA.

MISA Zimbabwe concluded that at the very least, this law needs thorough revision to bring it to par with globally accepted standards of data protection such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations.

The high-definition surveillance cameras are distributed in the country by Hikvision’s local partner, Nations Hardware and Electrical.

Nations Hardware managing director Rashid Materia said the technology was based on installing special sensors at junctions to figure out the speed of vehicles and the distance remaining for vehicles to cross the signal.

Zimbabwe records an average of 2 000 deaths due to road traffic accidents, according to figures from the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe.

The loss from traffic accidents amounts to $400 million a year, an equivalent of 3% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The loss is due to deaths, injuries and property losses.

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Written by PH

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