Fa(r)cial Recognition + Parliament = Smart Parliament?

So, on 8th November, a MSM publication printed an article that suggested that the Singapore Parliament was going to introduce a “facial recognition” system to track the MPs’ presence in the Parliament.


“Why?” is a question you might ask. Because “Smart Nation” – duh! Just because you can, you should. Really?

It is amazing how many things are done because “Smart Nation”. It is a justification for “pet” projects even if it they don’t make sense.

I decided that the article needed a response and I sent the following to the same MSM:

Date: Fri, 8 Nov 2019 09:19:14 +0800
Subject: About the facial recognition of MPs in parliament
From: Harish Pillay
To: STForum <stforum@sph.com.sg>

Hi. I refer to your report on 8 November 2019 about the parliament
calling for a tender to have facial recognition technology installed
in the Parliament to track attendance of MPs.

If the Singapore Parliament aspires to be a Smart Parliament, they
should be live-streaming on the Internet all proceedings, unedited and
with no delay. With that, attendance can tracked using any one of
numerous open source software already, which I am sure AI Singapore
can help with.

I am amused that tax payer monies have been earmarked for tracking MPs
like they are inmates of Changi Prison (I assume Changi does it).

We should not be using technology just because we can, and worse still
using Smart Nation as a means to justify it.

Harish Pillay
Fellow SCS, Fellow IES

That was last Friday. And today, that MSM prints the following:


Unsurprisingly, most of the original email was edited out, but at least the key part – live broadcasting of the proceedings on the Internet – was left in. The excuse offered by the editor was:

“Dear Harish,

Your contribution was trimmed to be carried under Excerpts which runs in our Forum page every Friday. The excerpts column is among the widest read items on the Forum page. Still, I understand your disappointment. Bear with me, please. Space is tight on Fridays and I really appreciate your contribution. I hope this does not put you off from continuing to write to the Forum.

Best regards.”

Now that the letter has been published, I do look forward to some form of a reply (or not).

Let’s get first principles correct here. We do not have live broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings and all that is done is a heavily edited summary that is shown on one of the MSM tv channels. One does not get a sense of what else happens and if we are to have an informed and engaged citizenry, this is the most important of institutions whose proceedings need to be viewed by anyone, anytime in full.

The recent sham of a motion that was proposed by the current DPM to have the Worker’s Party MPs to recuse themselves from continuing to be involved in the AHTC town council affairs over a court decision. After a debate, the motion was approved by a vote of 52 yes to 9 nos and 2 abstentions – strange that the ruling party could not even get their full strength to vote for it.

The troubles that the AHTC has been going through stems from the scam run by the PAP run town councils which denied town councils that get to be run by other parties following an election victory to stop using software and systems that the PAP run town councils had. This resulted in the AHTC having to recreate the entire system from scratch with an enormous waste of public funds. Read this for some additional background information.

So, there are many issues pending and unaddressed. The upcoming general elections need informed population and active citizenry to do the right thing.


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