In this age of surveillance, as the Kingdom scrambles to modernise and upgrade its capacity to counter a multitude of global, regional, national and local “threats”, all eyes are honing in on Phuket, the Kingdom’s original “international island”, which serves as a hub, home and stomping-ground to a diverse sampling of planet Earth.
Indeed, as residents of and regulars to this 576-square-kilometre cluster of rocks in the Phang Nga Bay, we all harbour a certain love-hate relationship with our beloved host, and at some point, inevitably, will have questioned whether the reasons we originally came, and stayed, remain valid. As the weathering winds of change become ever-more prevalent across the rapidly-transforming landscape, more doubt is bound to cloud one’s contentedness with “paradise island life”.
Cue the “Phuket Smart City 2020” agenda, which has been allocated B430 million from this year’s central fiscal budget. In the words of Pracha Asawateera, head of the Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) Phuket office, the funds will be used to develop “digital technology to drive urban infrastructure and also promote the island city as a smart living community focusing on safety and security in both land and marine areas”. (See story here.)
Simply put, the government is investing in technology and infrastructure to increase its capacity to monitor, profile and keep track of the Phuket populace, from hereon to be treated as one inclusive, programmable urban centre.
On one hand, the envisioned Smart City will be a clean, safe and efficient machine, where all runs like clockwork (think Singapore), and in which tabs are kept on everyone, everything, everywhere, ensuring maximum accountability and security and thus, it is argued, a better standard of living for all.
On the other hand, the days are numbered for many of the “entitlements” and “loopholes” that lured many to Phuket in the first place. Likewise, rights to personal space and privacy will increasingly be challenged by utilitarian appeals from the watchful eye of the state – for better or worse, only time will tell.