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South Korea tests AI facial recognition to track Covid cases




The system should reduce the strain on overworked tracing teams in a city with a population of more than 800,000 people, official says.

South Korea has said it will roll out a pilot project to use artificial intelligence, facial recognition and thousands of CCTV cameras to track the movement of people infected with the coronavirus, despite concerns about the invasion of privacy.

The nationally funded project in Bucheon, one of the country’s most densely populated cities on the outskirts of Seoul, is due to become operational in January, a city official told Reuters.

The system uses an AI algorithms and facial recognition technology to analyse footage gathered by more than 10,820 CCTV cameras and track an infected person’s movements, anyone they had close contact with, and whether they were wearing a mask, according to a 110-page business plan from the city submitted to the Ministry of Science and ICT.

The Bucheon official said the system should reduce the strain on overworked tracing teams in a city with a population of more than 800,000 people, and help use the teams more efficiently and accurately.

South Korea already has an aggressive, high-tech contact tracing system that harvests credit card records, cellphone location data and CCTV footage, among other personal information.

It still relies, however, on a large number of epidemiological investigators, who often have to work 24-hour shifts, frantically tracing and contacting potential coronavirus cases.

READ MORE: Artificial Intelligence and the Global Fight against Covid-19

Digitise manual labour

In bidding for national funding for the pilot project in late 2020, Bucheon mayor Jang Deog-cheon argued that such a system would make tracing faster.

“It sometimes takes hours to analyse a single CCTV footage. Using visual recognition technology will enable that analysis in an instant,” he said on Twitter.

The system is also designed to overcome the fact that tracing teams have to rely heavily on the testimony of Covid-19 patients, who aren’t always truthful about their activities and whereabouts, the plan said.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said it has no current plans to expand the project to the national level. It said the purpose of the system was to digitise some of the manual labour that contact tracers currently have to carry out.

The Bucheon system can simultaneously track up to ten people in five to ten minutes, cutting the time spent on manual work that takes around half an hour to one hour to trace one person, the plan said.

The pilot plans call for a team of about ten staff at one public health centre to use the AI-powered recognition system, the official said.

Governments around the world have turned to new technologies and expanded legal powers to try to stem the tide of Covid-19 infections.

China, Russia, India, Poland and Japan as well as several US states are among the governments to have rolled out or at least experimented with facial recognition systems for tracking Covid-19 patients, according to a March report by Columbia Law School in New York.

READ MORE: Ten ways 2020 changed how we used technology

Source: Reuters / TRT

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Uthuru Thila Falhu to reduce imports, ensure food security: Minister Saeed





Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed has emphasised the government’s endeavor to enhance food security through the Uthuru Thila Falhu project, aiming to curtail imports.

In an interview with a private media outlet, Minister Saeed underscored the significance of locally sourced products in ensuring food security for citizens. He also highlighted plans for island-level production.

Additionally, Minister Saeed outlined a upcoming initiative set to launch in Uthuru Thila Falhu, focusing on bolstering food security by cultivating ample fruits, vegetables, and seafood to cater to both resorts and residential areas across the nation. He said that the project aligns with President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s vision for the country, aiming to transform Uthuru Thila Falhu into a pivotal food hub.

Furthermore, Minister Saeed disclosed that the Maldives Industrial Development Free Zone has entrusted the China Harbour Engineering Company with reclaiming land and establishing an agricultural zone in Uthuru Thila Falhu. The project includes the creation of a specialized agricultural zone serving as a pivotal distribution center for agricultural products and inputs.

Source(s): PsmNews

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Six independent MP-elects sign with PNC





Six independent candidates who were elected to the Parliament in the recent elections have signed with the main ruling People’s National Congress (PNC).

In the parliamentary elections held on Sunday, PNC had endorsed several independent candidates over those contesting on the party’s ticket.

A spokesperson from the PNC confirmed on Wednesday that six independent candidates have signed with the party.

All six joined PNC on Tuesday.

They are:

  • Dr. Anara Naeem: Huraa constituency
  • Hassan Zareer: Mathiveri constituency
  • Ahmed Zameer: Central Machangolhi constituency
  • Ahmed Riyaz: Thimarafushi constituency
  • Yaseen Abdulla: Naifaru constituency
  • Azim Abdul Azeez: Vilingili constituency

The PNC had secured a landslide victory in Sunday’s elections; winning 66 out of 93 seats. With the six MP-elects who signed on Tuesday, the ruling party will have 72 seats in the next parliamentary assembly.

This does not take into account the candidates from other parties backed by the government; Maldives National Party (MNP)’s leader Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim, Maldives Development Alliance (MDA)’s leader Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, and Mohamed Abbas – a political from MDA who won the Velidhoo seat.

The MP-elects who signed with PNC on Tuesday includes former party members who lost the PNC primaries held in January. They later ran in the elections as independent candidates, with the government backing their candidacy over that of the ruling party’s own candidates.

This includes Zameer and Ahmed Riyaz. Their rival PNC candidates had later dropped out of the race and backed their candidacy.

Meanwhile, Hassan Zareer, the incumbent Mathiveri MP, had won the 2019 elections on a ticket from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). But he, along with 13 other lawmakers from MDP, defected to PNC after MDP’s Ibrahim Mohamed Solih lost re-election.

In this year’s polls, Zareer ran for re-election as an independent candidate, but with the government’s backing.

The move by the six independent MP-elects to join PNC comes after the MDP-majority Parliament passed an anti-defection bill on April 1.

The bill, which stipulates that parliamentarians will lose their seat for floor crossing, was signed into law by President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu last week.

Meanwhile, a separate bill to include anti-defection provisions in the constitution is in the works in the Parliament.

The 20th parliamentary assembly will be sworn in on May 28.


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Abdul Raheem express confidence in retaining majority of Parliament





Special Advisor to the President Abdul Raheem Abdulla has expressed confidence that the newly elected Parliament will be retained. The remarks were made during a programme aired on PSM News.

The ruling party, People’s National Congress (PNC) secured the super majority of the Parliament, following the parliamentary elections held on April 21. Abdul Raheem stated that the majority retained is close to 80 members, including 66 PNC candidates elected, who were endorsed by President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu. He affirmed that the new Parliament would strive to amend laws and regulations such that residents attain the maximum benefit, unlike previous Parliaments.

Abdul Raheem claimed to be aware of the reasons behind the incapacity of previous Parliaments of being retained, and revealed that he knew the stories behind the resignation of 12 parliamentarians during the tenure of Former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Hence, he claimed to be aware of the necessary initiatives and preparations to maintain the majority of the newly elected Parliament.

Additionally, Abdul Raheem disclosed that certain candidates who were elected had previously held senior parliamentarian positions. Therefore, he ensured that the majority elected by the residents will be retained, unlike previous Parliaments.

Source(s): PsmNews

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