Surveillance camera projects deployed to watch on people

[By Brenda Zulu]

Zambia has deployed surveillance camera project solutions on the roads namely the Advanced Road Safety Management System and the Intelligent Mobility Solutions (IMS) – Safe City Project.

These are similar in the conceptualisation and implementation of the work systems because the two systems work complimentary to each other.

“The Safe City Project now under implementation by Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment (ZTE) Corporation is a reflection of China Zambia Security Cooperation. China has provided a large amount of military and security equipment,” said Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Jie in a speech at the commissioning and handing over of paramilitary police housing units in Lilayi.

“This initiative is timely because it will greatly help us to curb crime as the police will be able to monitor hot spot crime prone areas,’’ said the Inspector General of police Mr Kakoma Kanganja,” in an analysis report.

The Advanced Road Safety Management System is under the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) and the IMS- Safe City Project is under the Ministry of Home Affairs; and all projects have some similar components of the two systems in nature whose main objectives are different.

In a comparison and reconciliatory exercise of the two projects, Smart Zambia Institute (SMI) national coordinator Dr Martine Mtonga, in a presention to two Ministers at their meeting held on 15th November 2018, advised that all surveillance camera systems should be carefully planned and synchronised to ensure optimum coverage and avoid duplications under the two projects run by the RTSA and the Ministry of Home Affairs respectively.

RTSA was advised to engage with its partner to review the contract in view of the unification of the command and control centres to increase on the number of cameras to be supplied.

Dr Mtonga proposed that road traffic management attains seamless interoperability of backend systems, applications and adopt standard cameras used in this field. He added that a field device implementation plan be developed to define the number and location of the surveillance cameras as the cameras were different in terms of functionality and usage.

Dr Mtonga also proposed that the Advanced Road Safety Management Solution network access design must have cameras that transmit data using wireless, fibre optic including mobile network operator facilities. They were also advised to have their own data centre and asked to utilise the Zambia National Data Centre (ZNDC) as disaster recovery site.

Likewise, the Intelligent Traffic Solution Component -Safe City Project, network access design should have cameras to transmit data using wireless, fibre optic and also have a separate data centre with storage, servers and applications to be built. Dr Mtonga also advised that one carrier be selected for the backbone and metro. The two solutions should use the tier three (3) National Data Centre as their primary data centre.

The Advanced Road Safety Management Solution and the Intelligent Traffic Solution component- Safe City Project were both advised to establish central command and control centres. The two surveillance camera projects should have a unified command and control centre manned by mandated institutions.

“They should also ensure that their respective Command Control Centre software were interoperable and share information in real time. The camera systems footage format should have the ability to use big data and analytics to detect threats collaboratively,” said Dr Mtonga.

In terms of surveillance camera location, some cameras that were closer to each other would need to be re-located to leverage on one another’s footage. It was also noted that none of the two solutions was taking advantage of the Zambia National Data Centre for server management and storage.

The Internet Protocol (IP) cameras in both solutions, Ministry of Home Affairs and RTSA combines image processing to digitise and compress video and images for easy transmission to the command control centre.

The surveillance cameras and equipment consist of 150 fixed mobile and portable IP cameras. Their functionality is online, has daylight vision, daily offline upload of images, has infrared with a built-in automatic vehicle detection and license plate reader. The planned deployment of surveillance cameras is not clear but citizens in Lusaka have seen the cameras being erected on the roads.

The IMS system could work simultaneously with the Safe City Project and share other modules and infrastructure by way of system integration.

Meanwhile, under the Intelligent Traffic Solution Component of the IMS-Safe City Project, the surveillance cameras and equipment consist of 60 fixed cameras, pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras, license plate reader (LPR) cameras. Their functionality is online and real-time capability, 24*7*365-night vision.

Under the planned deployment, 60 cameras have been deployed within the first year of implementation. The cameras used in the Advanced Road Safety Management Solution include the those used in the Intelligent Traffic Solution Component of the Safe City Project including fixed cameras, PTZ and LPR cameras.

The Intelligent Traffic Solution Component – Safe City Project, sensitivity and resolution takes high definition vehicles pictures and has the ability to capture the driver and the vehicle colour. Speed detection and over speed snapshot takes snapshots of over speeding vehicles and has auxiliary video detection to trace, analyse and recognise vehicles and also have the capability of radar and video-based detection.

It is now a year since the Zambian Cabinet approved in principle the introduction of a bill in parliament for the regulation of the use of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) by private and public entities. Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya said that the government had decided to introduce a law because there was no legal framework to regulate the use of CCTV in private and public premises in the country despite technology becoming affordable and has been widely used. The move, she added, was meant to enhance security in the country. Meanwhile, Smart Zambia Institute director, Milner Makuni, who is also director e-Government said that there was need for the government to work on the review of the legal framework.

It is clear that surveillance of public spaces and events in Zambia is state sponsored. It should not determine the ability and willingness of individuals to exercise their rights of freedom of expressions and association. It is hoped that CCTV in Zambia will never be used to collect information about political activities.

Tatenda Malan, a concerned citizen said there was a notable enormous expansion of the mass surveillance and that this had serious threats to human rights and civil labilities. The deployment of Surveillance Cameras in the absence of a legal framework was in breach of the human rights Act.

“Government deployment of the technology, which can be used to scan crowds or CCTV recordings as they are known – had run ahead of laws that could detect and prevent its misuse. In the absence of this legal framework in place it was left to the government to decide when the public benefit outweighed the significant intrusion and violation into an individual’s privacy, civil liberties and human rights arising from facial recognition and other forms of biometric identification,” said Mr Malan.

Aubrey Zain, chief executive director of Aegis, said there were specific political and social entities that transcended Zambian territories when it comes to the issue of surveillance.

“In Africa, surveillance cameras are risky to install because authorities use their political powers and any means at their disposal to monitor and persecute political opponents. If used sorely for their primary purposes, they help in enhancing security but such guarantees are almost zero in Africa,” said Mr Zain.

The author is a journalist researching on digital surveillance with support from Media Policy and Democracy Project, jointly run by the University of Johannesburg and UNISA.

Email: brendazulu2002@gmail.com

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