Third World Tomorrow

Some Half baked ideas, with the intention of trying to enhance the standard of living of the third world without the American-style gas guzzling. Prosperity will only be a consequence of efficiency. The developing world has limited resources. They must be used to the fullest. We explore exciting possibilities - in not just energy technologies, but any other technologies that help us use our extremely scarce resources better.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Stopping Crime (and Corruption ?)

Corruption and crime are impediments in the path of progress of all developing nations. The already insufficient law enforcement infrastructure of these countries just cannot cope up with spiraling crime rates. Rapists go scot-free; murderers too. Recovering stolen automobiles may just be forgotten about. Bribes may just be thought of as an unofficial part of the economy.

The scenario might look quite gloomy right now. But, I do believe that there is hope. Surveillance.

For, the price of video cameras is dropping day by day. You can get a cheap thingamajig (of the web-cam variety) for less than $20 (or 1000 Rupees). Also, it's bound to be cheaper when you order in bulk. Suppose you install them all over the city (covering all public spaces) and link them to various terminals monitored by cops in distributed control rooms, and keep the videos recorded for a week or so. (After all, memory is cheap now-a-days). 10,000 cameras would cost a paltry 1 crore - a sum which is not even a small fraction of the total crime that this will help prevent. We would roughly need 20Terabytes of Memory, available dirt cheap today.

Suppose a crime were committed. Even if the incident were not monitored by a cop, it would be recorded. The pertinent file can be recalled and the criminal could be recognized subsequently. This would, surely, bring about a virtual stop to almost all crime in public urban areas. (In this respect, India has it easy, as our cities are small and our population densities are phenomenal - a smaller number of cameras would cover a lot more people).

This would, for one, help in convicting the guilty in court. Lots of people have been acquitted for want of evidence. Any all-pervasive surveillance would change all that.

For personal security, it is proposed that all houses (and automobiles) come equipped with an electronic "black box". In the case of a home, it may be hidden in an unspecified location, storing surveillance data continuously. In case of an automobile, it may establish a wireless link with a cell phone company.

Such measures would be considered draconian in the U.S.A. But when you look at the rut that most third world countries seem to be in, such drastic measures would actually end up protecting civil liberties.

One must bear in mind that it is excessisve sbooping of this kind that has proven invaluable to the London police in the recent London explosions. This idea isn't new, in that respect. It's just that it is an idea just right for the third world - especially the rapidly growing parts of the third world, like India.

Your comments are welcome.