Domestic Politics, Foreign Surveillance: Chinese Dataveillance in the Global South

Chinese surveillance cameras

Student-led Research Team

Team Lead: Seyi Olojo, PhD student, School of Information, UC Berkeley

China’s surveillance technology market has found a lucrative foothold in the Global South, competing with the United States for contracts and economic influence. As these international business relationships multiply, so do their effects on domestic socio-political processes. In 2020, Uganda spent $126 million dollars on CCTV surveillance systems developed by Chinese software companies. With China’s investment in the Global South, what price will Uganda pay for Chinese facial recognition technology? With the recent re-election of long-term incumbent President, Yoweri Museveni, much is at stake for Uganda’s surveillance state. Our project aims to understand how China is developing relationships in the Global South to solidify their position and interests in places like Africa or Latin America. We investigate this through a series of questions: how does the introduction of surveillance technologies affect the socio-political climate of Uganda? What are the distinct effects of technology contracts with China on domestic political processes? What do these contracts signify for the future of development in the Global South? Lastly, what are the potential implications of Chinese ownership of data retrieved from the Global South? We use Uganda’s tenuous political climate as the center of our analysis to explore this history of Chinese technology exports in the Global South, tracing the politics of use as predictive analytic for understanding the future of governance in Uganda. This study explores how hegemonic politics further establishes a surveillance state in Uganda and contributes to dataveillance practices in the Global South.