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Mobile Phone Tracking In Beijing to Ease Traffic Congestion

Tue 08 Mar, 2011 // Firstnumber Team
Chinese bikers

The Chinese government plans to track Beijing citizens via their mobile phones in a project overseen by the Beijing municipal science and technology commission. The aim of the project is the alleviation of traffic congestion in the city by monitoring the flow of people through various transport systems.

The public will be able to buy the information gathered by the authorities with a view to analyse the level of traffic passing through a specific method of transport in a particular area at any given time, thus allowing for greater journey planning and journey time efficiency.

However, human rights campaigners have argued that this is simply another tool with which the government will wield control over the citizens of Beijing, by monitoring their whereabouts and daily routines. A professor of wireless communications at Beijing University, whilst not opposed to the scheme, expressed his belief that the use of the tracking will not be limited to the ease of traffic congestion. Professor Chen Derong said:

Certainly the use of the platform will not be limited to gathering traffic information. Officials in other areas, such as anti-terrorism and stability maintenance, will also find it useful.

Many have voiced their concerns regarding the move, branding it as “part of the escalation of the use of technologies to control social discontent” to use the words of Wang Songlian of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network. She also cited the implementation of obligatory registration for individuals purchasing a SIM card in 2010 as a precedent for the latest pilot scheme to be put into practice in the Beijing area.

Over recent months, censorship and control of disobedient citizens has become something of a hot topic throughout the world, gaining high levels of media coverage, from suppression of outright support for Nobel Prize winner ‘Uncle Xiaobo’, to the recent attempts to contain the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests.

For many, the mobile phone tracking is the latest in a long line of attempts to keep tabs on the Chinese population. The Chinese government however, proclaim the pragmatism of the project, ensuring citizens that efficiency and convenience are the sole driving forces behind the scheme.

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