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Virus outbreak ‘could reshape China’s smart city vision’

The outbreak could shift China’s smart city vision away from surveillance and towards health, Robyn Mak, a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, has said.

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Millions of people in China are being quarantined following the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus which has so far killed 26 and infected over 800, and is spreading.

 

The outbreak could reshape China’s smart city vision away from "political surveillance" and towards health security, Robyn Mak, a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, has said.

 

According to the latest reports, China has widened the unprecedented lockdown, now affecting over 40 million people across 14 cities, including Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have emerged.

 

Shanghai’s Disney Resort said it was "temporarily closing in response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak" and major public events have been cancelled elsewhere in China.

 

Travel restrictions vary from city to city and many places have cancelled transport services.

 

Travel restrictions vary from city to city and many places have cancelled transport services. Wuhan has suspended bus, subway and ferry services and there are no outbound planes or trains.

 

Smart cities

 

Around 500 smart cities are underway in China, but concerns have been raised about alleged infringements of privacy and human rights.

 

The Chinese government is working with tech companies such as Tencent and Ping An to upgrade the country’s healthcare system.

 

“Until now the push has focused on automating political surveillance,” Mak said. “But there’s a potential public good if the tech can be re-deployed to detect unusual numbers of feverish people in train stations, for example, while simultaneously cross-referencing healthcare history, travel records and weather patterns. After Wuhan, the pressure to deliver health security, not just political security, will be higher.”

 

The Chinese government is working with tech companies such as Tencent and Ping An to upgrade the country’s healthcare system. In September, Ping An said it had partnered with local governments in Shenzhen and Chongqing to develop an algorithm it claimed can predict the transmission of influenza and other infectious diseases with over 90 per cent accuracy.

 

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