“As part of Brazil’s World Cup contractual obligations to FIFA, the federal government developed two Integrated Centers of Command and Control (CICC)—one in Brasilia and one in Rio de Janeiro,” reads the study. “These installations were frequently cited as the major legacy of the World Cup in Dilma Rousseff’s successful 2014 presidential campaign.”
The CICC is a monitoring center where different police units (military, civil, transit, and federal), firefighters, paramedics, the Municipal Guard, and civil defense units can all coordinate with one another. All emergency calls are received at this center, and it organizes security operations and the controversial “pacification program” in the city’s favelas. Ninety-eight LED screens mounted in the room connect to 500 closed-circuit cameras placed in different parts of the city.
But Gaffney’s observations throw the whole operation of the CICC (and of COR, which monitors citizen safety, transit, and climate) into question. “When you enter into these places, everything feels like a movie set,” Gaffney says. “The employees have these robes like they work at NASA, and it feels like they’re acting out this ritual of intelligence. It gives the impression of being sophisticated and technologically advanced, but it’s all part of a performance.”
Until now, the “performance” Gaffney refers to has been generally well-received by authorities on smart cities. In the years between the World Cup and the Olympics, the monitoring systems being developed in Rio were of great interest to political leaders and media outlets including CNN and The New York Times. The city was designated the “best smart city of 2013,” and Mayor Eduardo Paes did a popular TED Talk on Rio’s new approach to city management.
“We do practice simulations for every large event. We have 500 professionals working 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explained Clara Schreiner at a recent Inter-American Development Bank conference on smart cities. “We have strong integration with other federal and state agencies. All [important] information is collected by the Rio Operations Center.” Schreiner is a representative for one of the private companies collaborating with the government on these large centers.
Despite assurances, the study authors criticize the value of the work these centers do—and the claim that they help the city of Rio as a whole.
An Unequal Intelligence
One of the main problems Gaffney has with the use of smart-city technology in Rio is that, according to him, its use always ends up being unequal. That is to say, there’s a “smart Rio” and a “not-so smart Rio,” and where a neighborhood falls in this binary depends, in large part, on its purchasing power.
“Because we’re talking about a very fragmented city, and a very unequal city in terms of resources and wealth concentration, the cameras and data-evaluation agencies are mainly located in rich areas,” says Gaffney. “Transit is highly monitored, but there’s heavy emphasis on automobiles, which only the rich have. It’s a system that tends to reaffirm the inequalities that already exist.”