Technological Solutions for Complex Problems: Surveillance in Eurasian Cities with Erica Marat
My name is Ted Gerber. It's a pleasure to welcome everyone to this week's lecture in our regular series sponsored by the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia, also known as CREECA and I'm the faculty directory of CREECA. And we have one more lecture on our calendar. So before I introduce our speaker for today, let me tell you that next week, same time, same place we will be hearing from Caress Shenck, who's Associate Professor of Political Science at Nazarbayev university. And she will be talking about Eurasian responses to the COVID-19 crisis between fact and fear. So please do visit our website which is creeca.wisc.edu to see
More information about this and other future events. So just a few logistical things. Our custom in our lectures is to ask people to mute their mics and videos for the lecture. And also hold questions to the end. And when, when the speaker is finished we'll moderate the questions and discussion.
We asked people to use the raise hand button under the participant's key, indicate that you have a question and then turn on your mic and camera when you're acknowledged. Law. So we now are asking people to introduce yourselves briefly when you ask your questions so we know, so the speaker and everybody else Everybody else knows who you are. Just briefly. Also, as you probably already heard, today's presentation will be recorded. So then finally, without further ado, I'm delighted to introduce Erica Marat, who is the Associate Professor at the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University, Washington DC. And I first became acquainted with Dr. Marat's research many
years ago we were just chatting. When I read a lot of her reporting on Central Asian societies, the Eurasian daily monitor. However, her since then her research is broad and she focuses on violence mobilization, security institutions, policing in Eurasia, India, and Mexico. And her book, her very well received book, called The Politics of police reform: society against the state in post-Soviet countries, appeared with Oxford University Press in 2019. And in that book, she explores the conditions in which meaningful transfer, transformation of police is likely to succeed and when will fail. So obviously very relevant, topical, given what we're experiencing with respect to discussions about police reform in the United States today.
However, of course, Dr. Marat examines not the United States but the Post-soviet countries and network. Today however, she's going to be talking about a different but related topic.
And that is technological solutions for complex problems merging electronic surveillance regimes in Eurasian cities. So it's a delight to welcome Dr. Marat and I'll turn the floor over to her now. Thank you so much, Ted. It's really a pleasure to be here.
Thanks for inviting me and the research that I'm going to present today. It is published as an article in Europe, Asia Studies. And the early drafts of that article were discussed as part of PONARS meeting.
Was a two years ago, feels like it was eternally ago in St. Petersburg where you were present and Kathryn Hendley, who's also here, was there I thought it was a great place to discuss the earlier drafts. On this paper. So I am delighted to be here and I'll start with that. So when I study police reform programs in former Soviet space, I kept hearing this buzzword, smart city, smart city, safe city, smart city. Everywhere. I went in, in Moscow sub-area and promised hundreds of thousands of surveillance cameras across the city to the city, so the city become smarter and safer.
The mayor of Kyiv, Klitschko also promised tens of thousands of surveillance cameras in central parts of Kyiv, but also a lot more traversed areas of the city. And even cities as small as a Dushanbe. Tajikistan also embarked on those ambitious smart and safe city projects and install dozens of cameras that recognized license plates and central parts of Dushanbe.
And if you look across Eurasia or post-Soviet space, we can really see that on the Smart City and save city projects arising all around, both, both in the big cities but also in smaller cities. And this map has to be updated. Because when projects come about every, every now and then, in the Chinese, chinese companies like Huawei, Hikvision, they dominate the space. There are also russian Projects, 112 and several western projects like Cisco and yeah, pretty much, pretty much Cisco. And IBM. But Huawei really dominates the space and you can see this red circle that is present all across.
And to me that's really reminds the concept by Jasanoff and Kim dreamscapes of modernity. When. It's a notion that describes a collective vision of technological advancement as a way of creating specific sociological outcomes. So by expanding technological innovation in urban spaces, the cities, so from Moscow, Kyiv to Dushanbe to Nur-sultan, really trying to achieve some kind of sociological outcomes.
And very often it is a more orderly society. Was fewer crimes. And fewer problems.
In the question to ask and my researches, what are the changes? What are the, how are smart technologies changing public spaces and cities across, across Eurasia? In my article mostly focus on Kyiv Almaty and Bishkek. But today I'll expand my research to other cities as well. And in the article that I really did mostly conduct discourse analysis. So I looked at city plan program.
So in Russian it's known as Jan one. It is relic from the Soviet regime when cities planned their development for the next five to ten years. I reviewed media media reports that reported on smart city technologies.
I looked at statements by mayors and agencies. I looked through contracts with foreign firms, both municipal, municipal and national level. And I conducted interviews mostly was mostly with urban authorities. Municipal authorities.
And I did now is part of a different project. I'm engaging in some quantitative comparison. I'm going to present for one of the cases, a little bit of a quantitative overview. But that's just dumb. That's more of an emergent research that I'm conducting. Collaboration with another scholar.
And, um, so I entered this research trying to look what are the domestic processes for installing this kind of cameras and this kind of surveillance regimes. And this was really an outgrowth of my research or just generally a law enforcement in former Soviet space. And what I noticed is that that there is really a local demand for surveillance, for this innovative way of policing behavior. And these are the examples of some signs of what kind of behavior is not welcomed in Almaty. No spitting or no littering. And it really, to me, this resonates with the argument that reasonably presented by Rosenfeld on the autocratic middle-class.
It's this kind of, in the case of policing and urban areas, this long-term urban class that is economically autonomous, but still expect the state to engage in daily lives and to order daily life in accordance to the to urban residents interests. It also resonates with some of the research that is also emerging, the urban studies and urban studies domain of how urban residents now and in Eurasia. So after the crazy crazy 1990s and 2000s, when urban dwellers were renovating their private spaces. So engaging in what's known, you've already want in a unifying their private spaces, apartments or homes are now turning their attention, attention to the aesthetics of the public space. And kind of from the words of one employee of the mayor's office is urban dwellers in Almaty. So the long-term urban middle-class are really tired, was tired seeing So I guess in English it's splash dash building.
I don't know. Tell me help you with translation. Was street retail was chaotic at advertising billboards covering the city. And they wanted a more beautiful public space.
And the cameras are helping to create this public space where disorderly behavior or behavior that doesn't conform with this vernacular notions of urbanity. What it means to be an urban person is policed, police better? And at this point, when I present my research, I often hear students ask me, but, but what do you actually mean? Do you mean smarter? Do you need safe? Yes, because those are two different notions. Because Smart refers to this idea that life if it was in a city becomes easier.
You can use your cell phone to pay for services for public transportation, you can access access services. There's Wi-Fi hotspots available and all those great things that make life wasn't a city seamless and more comfortable. Safe is a more contested category. It is a it is a subjective category that defines what is disorderly than what is criminal behavior.
And it's very often politicized. And integration contexts including exposes deep political and economic and social divides. So when I talked to police officers in Kyiv, for instance, their understanding and also civil society in fact, opened refers to of what is an urban behavior within Kyiv.
What is not living up to this idea of urbanity. This has a lot of parallels with what kind of, what kind of population was in Kyiv accepts the changes brought about by Euromaidan and the ideals of Euromaidan behaving in a more European or politically open way. I know I'm kind of rambling here, but and individuals who for not accepting the changes, who are still they're locked in their past and the way they behave doesn't really live up to the ideals of, of Euromaidan. And so when I walked around, Kyiv was police officers. They they, they looked at individuals and there was a specific case when they had to confront middle age man who was shouting at them and saying, you guys, you I don't I don't believe. What did you do with the country? I don't believe in the changed regime.
Ukraine was good as it was. Things like that that can have opposed to Euromaidan change then that ideals in the police officers were of course a representation of the new regime. They were newly hired new police officers. And they were they spend some time.
with that man and then trying to explain to him what how his behavior is wrong. And that resonates also with how Klitschko presents. Surveillance cameras in central kyiv. What kind of crowds he wants to monitor and what kind of even emotions. So he goes as far as to explaining that those cameras can focus on human emotions and determine when there is a mal intention in people and preempt this kind of behavior and this ID and this, these two notions, the smart and safe, they're used interchangeably in the Eurasian contexts.
So when very often in Sobyanin or Klitschko or mayors in Almaty, Bishkek or Dushanbe, when they speak about smart and safe, they use them interchangeably. Usually they refer to smart city technologies, but what they actually mean is safe city technologies. And sometimes they just say, say, technologists of bezopasnii gorod or umnii gorod 289 So but that did.
The reference here is mostly on safe city technologies have been more politicized category. But I quickly realized in my research that the domestic picture is not enough. There are also international powers at play.
So I'm a comparative political scientist, but I did have to look at more of what's happening on and international arena. And very much, and very much in seasons. Argument, there might be very domestic demand for goods and services, but then there's also availability of products, services, and capital by external firms, external powers, and they just happen to align in the same place.
And I identified two major external drivers of domestic innovation. The first one is global prestige. It just became really fashionable to have a smart city. And again, that, that really means safe city in the Eurasian contexts. Mayors, often when they propose innovations within the city, they refer to global ranks. In there is, there is a dozen of smart city indices out there that compare different cities to each other and identify a global leaders.
And of course, those ratings, they are overwhelmingly Eurocentric. They define an ideal smart city based on a model in Scandinavia. But of course, the social, social patterns and behavior really is different from even global north and global south. And those ratings, they often appear in references by mayors when they introduce innovations. In Central Asia references especially in Kazakhstan. So in Nur-sultan the capital of Kazakhstan that the references are more Asian centric.
So South, South Korea, so Seoul or Hong Kong or Singapore. But when you look at a more Western part of former Soviet space hits, really London, New York, those are the ideals for kindof in Moscow and receives. So that's one. So there's
this notion of global prestige and there's certain benchmark associated with what a modern urban space looks like. And then there is also more of our really, really this IR, notion of China and Russia competition and especially China's rise as a global power in innovation and technological innovations. And of course in China, both in China and Russia there, those innovative projects in technology, they're closely linked to governments foreign policy, foreign and domestic policy. More so, of course, than in the United States or in the European Union. Though, we also seen the Western contexts how that's also becoming more interlinked.
And Chinese firms your way collision and several other smaller, smaller companies. They have a pattern of inviting mayors or heads of states of our ministers to their headquarters in Beijing or Shanghai. And impressing. And here in the pictures MSI, Huawei. Impressing them, but they're cutting, cutting edge technologies and selling the idea that they can offer this unprecedented innovation to the urban spaces in their respective countries.
So there is that, there is, there's the push by corporations connected to governments to, to innovate. Very often, offering favorable financial terms for innovation. In China, of course, is nowhere to be compared to Russia.
Russia is a lot more, a lot less dominant, dominating in the world, even in Eurasia. My Chinese project, Russian projects are slowly taking root in some city. So in Bishkek, Vega is from Rostech. It is the company that supplies several several dozens of surveillance cameras that identify mostly license plates. And then also both countries, of course, have national strategies on innovation and then expanding their innovative programs around the world. If you read literature on China's technological innovations, you really get a lot of references to China trying to harvest as much data as possible from around the world to then improve its Artificial Intelligence capabilities.
And Huawei In other Chinese firms, they cater to this political demand by China. Russia is trying to use in Eurasia, Russia is trying to use regional platforms. In this case, Eurasian Economic Union, to try to at least coordinate efforts to come up with technological innovations and can create a shared space. For technological innovation, I see this as this as an attempt to at least have an oversight on the rapid expansion of Chinese technologies in Eurasia.
But also as a way maybe it should push for more Russian products by Russian government agencies. So Rostech and the 410 of course, government agencies in Russia. So back to my question, what do we have? What is the result of those things? Domestic and international pressures or sources for, for change. See the emergence of roughly three different surveillance regimes in former Soviet space.
And they really show more of where does the power over innovation lies and control over innovation lies. So one, the first one is local surveillance afforded by a wealthier cities like Moscow. Nur-sultan, Almaty, cities that really generating a lot of profit and the economic drivers in a country, Moscow in Russia, in Almaty, especially in in Kazakhstan, Almaty, They boast themselves to be contributing almost a quarter to the state budget in terms of its economic activity.
And they're driven by international prestige. So these are wealthy cities with really dense economic activity. They're driven by international prestige for innovation. The statements by mayors really refer mostly to this idea that in order to be even and even wealthier, even more modern, will leading up to these benchmarks. And often cite different cities that are considered to be more innovative than others.
And decisions a lot of times taken a municipal level. So within mayor's office and at times also overriding or complimenting local law enforcement or municipal law enforcement efforts. They do represent that they do. The surveillance cameras. They again, I'm talking mostly about surveillance cameras here. They complement and expand law enforcement functions.
So now mayors offices are also engaging in law enforcement in addition to Interior Ministries or interior minister branches on the city level. Those cities, they do also expand smart elements of a city. So again, comfort of living within a city. Payment systems, Wi-Fi hotspot and so on.
But still, smart and safe city innovations mostly have to do with law enforcement. Because, because the decisions are taken on a municipal level, they can also really quickly adjust to changing conditions, changing demands. One example is a year ago during lock down when the pandemic just started.
Spread all these things, ultimately cities, they repurposed their surveillance cameras from the traditional kind of criminal and disorderly behavior that they policed. Be that on the streets, those people or wasn't motorists of the traffic regulations. So they repurpose them to police people who violated lockdown measures. This is an example of how one man in Moscow, he exited his apartment building to throw away trash. His face was recorded and surveillance cameras.
And then next thing he knows will just go away. So police officer show up on your doorstep and analyze them. So this surveillance regime for pandemic didn't survive for too long. But it was quickly the, the, the, the speed with which it was scaled up during the pandemic and repurposed was quite impressive in all those three cities and the many, many stories from that as well, how this really minute behavior was surveilled and then penalized through all this 492 Then there are hybrid control regimes.
kyiv is one of the examples of such and such regime. And decisions are really made are still on a municipal level because those are big cities with quite sizable economic, economic power. They do focus on law enforcement aspects.
There isn't much emphasis on smart aspects of it, as far as cities are safe cities. They usually, because it's mostly law enforcement they think, and because it's also in the case of Kyiv, it's a more democratic environment. Smart and safe cities innovations, they're really accompanied, which really strike me a lot, with elaborate narratives about what they represent.
And by that, I mean, that Klitschko over and over, over and over again. He refers to the same emotional stories of how cameras help to prevent kidnapping of a small child from daycare, really capture perpetrators before they left the perimeter of the city. And the story concepts again, it comes up again and again. Same.
Similarly, he refers to a fugitive who's been on the run for 15 years and then finally captured in one of the train stations in Kyiv. In thankfully to these technologies, this was possible, very much a result or reinforce this result orientate oriented policing rely on the statistics of captured fugitive or fugitives or perpetrators. Primes solve. This result oriented element is also present in Kazakhstan, I should say, that suddenly they, they present the effectiveness of those cameras, throw statistics. And. There is no discussion of what kind of crime and crime prevention or investigation takes place outside areas where cameras are not present.
And the the statistics over shadows, just the general narrative of what it means to be safe with them. It was in a city. And then also this pointing here.
It's really hard to tell whether the data just stays within the city and just innovations. Was the data in the use of data is just on the city level or even an international level? Or is it now also shared was international companies? And especially was Hikvision, Huawei and Hikvision essentially in Kyiv because Hikvision is one of the very few providers of technologies. So I should have said that in a welfare series, they pick and choose from a menu of different vendors. So it's not just one company dominating the space, but it's a mixture of Chinese, European, local.
In Western companies that are present. Kiev now has mostly Chinese companies present. And here are the questions and also kind of expressed by some journalists and society activists expressed concern that maybe data is shared.
Power is narrative of narratives has a very important here. And this kind of goes to the project that I'm conducting currently on, just generally China, Russian expansion in different contexts. And it's like, I'm not trying to draw a like a clear line between the presentation of smart city technologies by Ukrainian media and Ukrainian authorities.
But I think, but what I'm trying to show here in the ecosystem at that kind of discursive ecosystem in which they occur. So these are data extracted from adult project. It's a dataset, it's a global dataset on gosh. It has to do with tone.
But you don't-- Anyways, I just was thinking about it this morning. And it's kinda, it's an analysis of Chinese in this particular case and the Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, and other sources. So mostly Western dominated sources.
Frankly, I can talk more about it. How we selected the sources and the other category in Q&A section. But just general discourse of China, Ukraine relations. And the gray bell curve shows coverage of Chinese media. And the tone of the 0 from the, from the center is more positive tone of coverage.
And a positive would be more like collaboration agreement. So these words would be automatically called, coded as positive. And so Chinese and we see picture, we see this really perfect curve, bell curve across different contexts that Chinese media seem to have a very controlled messaging about their engagement in the world. Ukrainian media is also more on the positive side, although it veers towards On neutral tone. And then the other sources, again, mostly dominated by West, but by Western sources tend to be really negative about China, Ukraine relations.
And this happens again and again across different contexts in Eurasia, but also in the world. How international media depicts Chinese engagement in different countries as negative, whereas Chinese depiction and even local depiction tends to be more positive. And this is just, just to say that the engagement and the right side here, the right graph plot.
It shows specifically cooperation events in which and cooperation on smart city technologies would fall. And here again, it's mostly positive coverage about engagements, whereas international media tends to be more neutral on the Chinese. Ukrainian relations are not that expensive compared sure to China and Central Asia.
And one of the main aspects of Chinese Ukrainian relations is impact. Cooperation was your way. So somewhere in those in these plots, there would be mentioned also of here when Hikvision, installment of smart city technologies in Ukraine as well.
And that here it shows in terms of frequency, Chinese media cover really extensively their engagement in, in Ukraine and followed by you, by Ukrainian, followed by other sources. So what kind of sources around the world? And then also by Ukrainian source, but the Chinese, in a way we could interpret here that the Chinese sources they tried to shoot because they try to dominate the narrative. Dominate the narrative on what is it that Chinese Ukrainian relations look like? And we see again, we see those dynamics again and again across Eurasia where Chinese have both the most numerous and most controlled messaging on their relationship with the countries in Eurasia. And this is on the right side is just the coverage in general on Chinese Ukrainian relations. There has been a peak in 2017. Again, I don't want to draw a direct relationship between the expansion of smart city technologies and the coverage, we still need to dig deeper and see specifically what was covered in that period of time.
But there is that they do coincide. They do coincide with the expansion of smart cities in Ukraine and that period of time and just the general coverage by which, by the media overall in general, the cutoff for us is really before the pandemic began. So we're not analyzing news sources that were. Affected by the coverage of pandemic. Alright, so now the third type of regime is really outsource services. Outsource services.
And smaller cities with similar economic activity. Activity. In a way, economically not as prosperous. Cities like this Bishkek, Dushanbe, and Yerevan They really have just one or two vendors most of the time, one vendor. So if somebody in Yerevan, they mostly collaborate with your way. Decisions are made on a national level, not on a municipal level.
So the municipal authorities, they're not even involved contracting with activities with the vendors. Or really, maybe they sometimes may decide and advice on where the cameras should be installed by the decisions are really made on ministerial level. Usually it's telecommunication authorities together with Prime Minister's office.
And they really what's striking about the piece. And it's really an unfortunate picture, I should say, is that these, this is a way of monetizing crime. So the contracts are built so that every time a violator is captured on camera, So be that a motorist was a lesson slates or a person's face.
And then those, those individuals, violators, are then put in a system where they would have to pay for their violations. The number of fines collected from the population really increased dramatically, dramatically in those countries, especially in the first few months. But the structure is such that every time authorities collect fines from the population, part of it goes into financing the loan. So the incentive structure here is really invert it. It's really much easier for the, for authorities to have people keep violating and paying off the loans. And this really undermines the incentive for improving infrastructure and just conditions.
Be that more comprehensive, complex conditions in terms of labor relations or protect protections and participation of civil society in deciding what kind of city do we want to really improving conditions on the, on the roads and building more coherence traffic patterns in all those things that would prevent people from violating rules of rules on the streets. There is really no sense. I got no sense that there was really control of data.
So for Kyrgyzstan, Vega, Rostech's firm, I guess, agency, Vega got invested into smart cameras on, on their streets and Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek. The Cloud prisma prism is located in Russia. We knew there was not even a discussion or any statements by authorities on where the data goes, where the data from violators or just any data just that that is harvested on the streets. Goes. And again, there is really no incentive to reform. So summing up here, there are three different types of law enforcement regimes emerge based on those surveillance, extension of surveillance technologies.
One is local control, driven, driven by prestige in wealthier, well, your cities like Moscow, Nur-sultan, Almaty. Then there is the hybrid control where they're still local, local decision-making. But the the the relative emphasis on law enforcement. That is not just say that prestige is also driven, driven by law enforcement, but the prestige as one of the features of local control as well.
And then there's, the third one is outsourced and it's really monetizing crime. It is monetizing crime for authorities that are trying to, you know, if I'm blunt, extract, extract equity from citizens. All of these regimes, they cater to more autocratic tendencies.
And there is very little discussion on who's watching home. So if we look at, again, going back to Susan strangers question, where does the power lie here? The question would be, who is watching? Who? There was no discussion of that whatsoever. And in the Eurasian contexts now, beyond Eurasia, what we find in Eurasia, the dynamics Eurasia. In the developments in Eurasia, we can see that modernity and authoritarianism. So the strive to modernize and also to expand authoritarianism.
They again, they go hand in hand. And I drew inspiration from studies of Stalinism. So it can kinda see the pattern how history rhymes. It's often a substitute and effective state and very often looks for quick fixes to complex problems, anything. This is generally the case for a lot of cities around the world, including in the United States. That concludes my presentation.
Thank you very much. 786