Details are emerging about the recently signed strategic cooperation agreement between CloudWalk Technology Co. and the government of Zimbabwe to undertake a mass facial recognition project.
The Chinese startup was assisted in establishing the agreement by the local government of Guangzhou.
“The Zimbabwean government did not come to Guangzhou purely for AI or facial ID technology, rather it had a comprehensive package plan for such areas as infrastructure, technology and biology,” Yao Zhiqiang, strategic director of CloudWalk’s research and development center in Chongqing told the Global Times. “With the knowledge that Chinese facial ID technology has made rapid progress over recent years, the Zimbabwean government hopes to introduce it to the country to help accelerate its modernization by partnering with leading Chinese enterprises in the IT sector.”
Shingi Magada, a cultural and business consultant in Zimbabwe, told the Times that interest in the technology has come from law enforcement, as well as social media and dating site startups.
“Countries in Africa will welcome any idea that can bring about security of lives and properties,” said Louis Idehen, CEO of Nigerian tech company SMSICT. He also noted, however, that people in Zimbabwe may find the technology invasive if it is not accompanied by significant benefits and the right awareness.
The agreement is being carried out in stages, and will progress further with development of camera and network infrastructure in Zimbabwe, Yao said. The company can also provide equipment for offline use in the meantime, however.
CloudWalk is currently training its AI with self-collected data, while it waits to receive a database from Zimbabwe’s government. The country is also facing political uncertainty ahead of an election later this year, which has impacted the project’s implementation.
The Times notes that a report from China Industry Economy Research & Consulting estimated China’s facial recognition industry will grow by 25 percent through 2022 to 6.7 billion yuan (US$1.06 billion). The consumer-oriented portion of the facial recognition market, including smartphone and smart furniture applications, will come to dominate the industry in the next two or three years, according to Xiang Yang, an analyst with Beijing-based CCID Consulting.