FILE PHOTO: A basic view of below setting up buildings within the New Administrative Capital (NAC) east of Cairo, Egypt July 5, 2021. Image taken July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
September 2, 2021
By Mahmoud Mourad and Aidan Lewis
CAIRO (Reuters) – In Egypt’s new capital on the outskirts of Cairo, residents will use sensible playing cards and apps to unlock doorways and make funds, and surf the net on public WiFi beamed from lampposts.
A community of not less than 6,000 cameras will monitor exercise on each road, monitoring pedestrians and autos to manage site visitors and report suspicious exercise.
Its “sensible metropolis” design is a world away from components of the present sprawling capital, the place creaking infrastructure can imply patchy web and telephone protection, doormen at densely constructed residence blocks kind a human community of look-outs, and administrative errands can contain hours of queuing.
Town being constructed from scratch within the desert – to date referred to as the New Administrative Capital – is designed to carry 6.5 million residents and is predicted to open to its first civil servants later this 12 months.
How a lot Egypt’s centre of gravity shifts from Cairo to the brand new capital, 45 km from the Nile, is unclear. For a lot of abnormal Egyptians, for whom the bustling metropolis has been house for generations, the transfer and price can be unthinkable.
However for many who do make the change, they’re promised a single app for paying utility payments, accessing native providers, and reporting complaints and issues.
Officers say superior know-how methods will assist scale back waste by detecting leaks or faults, and by permitting residents to control consumption.
“By their cellular app a citizen will be capable of handle all their life affairs from their cell phone,” stated Mohamed Khalil, head of know-how for the Administrative Capital for City Growth (ACUD), the navy and government-owned firm constructing the town.
Authorities plan to repeat and synchronise the know-how by different developments championed below President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for whom the brand new metropolis is a flagship mission.
“This mannequin is being utilized in all of the 14 new cities which might be being established … considered one of our objectives is the mixing of cities,” stated Khalil.
Some Egyptians see the brand new capital being for a privileged elite in a rustic the place practically a 3rd of the inhabitants reside beneath the poverty line. Others see the technological increase as lengthy overdue.
“It’s all very helpful for the citizen,” stated Tark Habib, a 53-year-old dealer talking in central Cairo, the place the Mugamma, the monolithic and notoriously chaotic headquarters of Egyptian forms in latest many years, is being emptied.
Know-how and communications contracts for the brand new capital whole $640 million, which might rise to $900 million in later phases, Khalil stated. Companions embody Huawei, Orange and Mastercard.
A surveillance system developed by Honeywell will “monitor crowds and site visitors congestion, detect incidents of theft, observe suspicious individuals or objects, and set off automated alarms in emergency conditions”, the corporate says.
As constructing work continues, the extent of scrutiny – or any considerations over it – has but to be examined.
Officers say surveillance know-how can be geared toward detecting crime and enhancing security, and that knowledge will likely be protected by Egyptian legislation and worldwide requirements.
Nonetheless, Egypt has witnessed a sweeping crackdown on dissent below Sisi, enforced by measures together with controls on web exercise, spot safety checks on the street, an efficient ban on protests and a rolling state of emergency.
Whereas enhanced surveillance might make identification of dissidents simpler, “I don’t see what it will actually add past what they already are doing, which may be very in depth,” stated Steven Feldstein, a senior fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace in Washington and writer of a ebook on digital repression.
(Further reporting by Ahmed Fahmy; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Enhancing by Alison Williams)