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Chinese government is increasingly using big data to aid in governance – and surveille its people

The good and the bad of big data

The Chinese government is increasingly using big data to aid in governance – and surveille its people.

That has stoked fears of a burgeoning digital totalitarianism.

But MIT’s Yasheng Huang takes an interesting perspective:

“China is a repressive, authoritarian society with or without big data.”“Technology has made the repression more precise, but precise repression might be an improvement over indiscriminate repression.”And Huang points out that, the government is using big data for good:“In 2016, [Alibaba] introduced a traffic management system called City Brain in Hangzhou.”“ City Brain is a collaborative project with the city government; it can tap into the traffic and transportation bureaus’ systems for video footage of traffic incidents.”“The municipal government relies on City Brain to identify the best routes for emergency vehicles and to plan new roads and bus routes.”“According to the Chinese transportation ministry, traffic congestion in 2017 cost about 20 percent of total urban disposable income, or about 5 to 7 percent of China’s GDP."Huang ends with a question:“The social benefits gained through big-data technology don’t obviate the political downsides.”“The question is: just how ‘down’ is the downside, and how ‘up’ is the upside?”

We will let you ponder that one over the weekend…
 

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MIT Tech Review: China’s use of big data might actually make it less Big Brother-ish

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