Social media sites to replace CCTVs in Davao?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 October) — Move over, CCTVs. Facebook and Twitter could be Davao City’s next main monitoring tool for public safety and governance.

Software giant Microsoft is scheduled to meet with department heads of the city government Wednesday to discuss upgrades to the city’s existing ICT solutions.

In an interview Tuesday at the Grand Menseng Hotel, Microsoft public sector lead George Parilla told reporters that there is a huge potential for the city to invest in more IT solutions in its governance programs.

Parilla said part of the software solution is to listen in on already public posts to monitor keywords such as disaster indicators, like “fire” or “sunog,” in citizens’ social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Parilla, Microsoft’s small and mid-market solutions partners point person, said their software solution Citynext could be integrated into the city’s existing systems to improve several aspects of governance, including healthcare, education, and public safety.

But it would be up to the city government to decide which services they would need.

The city has an existing interconnected security system purchased from IBM. It comprises of high-definition CCTV cameras mounted on key areas such as intersections and monitored at the Public Safety and Security Command Center.

However, Microsoft regional industry director Guy Ron said that in larger cities like New York and London, this practice is not enough in terms of surveillance.

“Maybe what cities need is not a huge number of cameras but just the right way of interpreting data from those cameras,” Ron said.

He added that cities mistake having CCTVs as a deterrent to crime, but said the average number of monitoring that can be done by an operator of the cameras is four to five screens at a time.

“These can be automated through several things,” Ron said, citing automated processes such as cloud computing and data crunching.

The Microsoft officials said they were interested to know the needs that would be identified by the city officials today.

“You don’t just have a series of cameras being watched in a room somewhere. It doesn’t work that way,” Ron said, adding that there is already technology beyond infrared cameras such as devices that could detect the “smell” of chemicals being used in bombs.

In the past few months, the city’s use of CCTVs has been criticized by different sectors for not being efficient enough, despite the city government’s promise it would help prevent crime.

In July last year, some bank robbers who engaged the police in a shootout managed to escape outside the city despite the CCTVs in intersections and a city-wide lockdown.

An alleged spray-modus robbery inside a taxi also yielded no immediate results via CCTVs to determine whether a taxi driver indeed robbed a passenger he picked up from the airport.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte demanded that commercial establishments with capital of P3 million and above monitor their CCTVs in real time to deter crime instead of after a crime has been committed.

The city requires establishments to install CCTVs and to surrender footage to the city in cases of law enforcement investigations.

This was reinforced by twin bombings at two different malls in September last year, with suspects identified through CCTVs in the malls.

PSSCC chief Frank Villaroman, in an earlier interview, said the city’s surveillance systems had its limits. (MindaNews)