Big Brother lurking?

Traffic problem is growing in the major cities of this country, particularly in the crowded place like Thimphu. That’s why there is now the talk of setting up Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) – advanced applications that will allow users to be better informed to make safe and more coordinated and smarter use of transport networks.

This is an idea that has come of age. At the same time, this very idea could lead us to problems bigger than we are facing today. What can be gained out of this initiative, we must deeply meditate on and weigh with the options available to us today. Problems do not just arise. Often they are brought to be.

Social and economic progress that we have achieved since we embarked on planned development initiatives decades ago has been remarkable. The reality that we are facing today – vehicles choking the roads and pollution spreading far and wide and deep – stand testimony to our growth, to say nothing about the rising rate of crime that the society is grappling with.

Changes are difficult. What is important is how we deal with it. There are options right and choices wrong to pick from. That’s why there is the need to stop and think before we take certain decisions.

The technologies that are considered for installation in Thimphu are 24/7 control centre, traffic lights at some junctions, parking guidance systems, CCTV cameras and speed monitoring cameras, among others. All these sound highly cutting-edge, but what is good for the public could undermine individual’s privacy.

We do not want Ayatollahs under our bed sheet or Big Brothers ever ready to stamp their cold boots on our faces even as we are settling down for a family dinner at home. It may be a low-emission project, but what could come out of it is highly nefarious and toxic.

We hear that the study will develop a plan to set up travellers’ information system at bus terminals in places like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. This is highly welcome.

But things have in their nature to shift to the most convenient of uses they can be put to. It is CCTV on the roads today. Tomorrow, highly improved and invisible cameras will feed images and information from our bedrooms to those controlling and scanning data on the other end.

Of what value are our rights like privacy, dignity and security then?

If the planners of these measures to bring down crime and accidents think that people are going berserk with the idea, you are massively mistaken. We are just asking you to make the system as friendly as possible that will not encroach into individual’s privacy.

We will stand and watch how you bring all these together.  Yes, of course, you have all our good wishes and prayers !


1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    Mid air or on the rails or with endless water around, it’s much more convenient to plan and manage a traffic system. But on roads, with wheels touching the grounds, it’s not that easy a task to communicate directly to the vehicles. Vehicles alone don’t create the traffic jams unless parked at the wrong places the wrong way, but the one driving it does. We do get trained before being issued a driving license, but our readings of the road ahead and traffic around is poor most of the times. If any of you have the experience of so called horrible traffic in neighboring Indian cities, you will observe some pathetic sense of driving sitting behind the wheels, especially those who are driving the public transport vehicles or even the ones driving the VVIPs around.

    With increasing number of vehicles even in Bhutan, educating our drivers and riders with the knowledge of the on road manners of the vehicles they drive or the way we read our road conditions and traffic conditions will be a challenge. On a bike, being a part of it, the riders are a lot more connected to the machine; but same is not true when we are driving. We don’t even have driving schools teaching us all that. Worst part is that we don’t even try communicating with the traffic around, so for us to communicate with a traffic information system is truly a wonderful challenge. Even our cars or bikes are not more intelligent than what we are. On a bad traffic day, we blow the horns as if it were a tax free entertainment show on the road. Being seated in your car is a different experience than being there in your bedroom privacy. While driving, we must communicate with the drivers or riders or pedestrians around to get a better sense of the traffic before we start communicating with an intelligent traffic system. Or we need vehicles that are smarter than us, and we can even afford to go to sleep behind the wheels.

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