The Chinese government is now digitally tracking citizens who are over 80-years-old as they commute in the city of Beijing through the “Beijing Connect” card, aiming to use the collected data in improving future services provided to elderly citizens.
With a country population of over 1.37 billion, the city is a home to over three million citizens over the age of 60. Looking at the bigger picture, deputy head of the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau Li Hongbing shed light on the rapidly aging population, saying that one third of the Chinese population will be over 60 by 2050.
The tracked movements include number and frequency of trips taken to do some shopping or visit the doctor, as well as bus usage and park visits. Based on the collected data, the government can predict the future numbers of disabled citizens and plan its future budget around the needed services, vice president of Beijing Community Service Association Bai Qiang told AP.
On whether the card is considered a privacy breach, an 84-year-old user told the news agency that: “Elderly people don’t have any secrets.” The card user, named Liu Huizhen, added that the card saved her the hassle of doing math. She just “swipes the card.”
The subsidized card holds all identification information of its holder. It allows the elderly to access public parks and transportation for free. The government also pumps each card with CNY 100 ($15) each month to be used in selected restaurants, shops and hiring services. Additional features include converting the Beijing Connect card into a debit card to which other bank accounts can transfer money.
Around 20 million cards will be distributed to citizens aged 60 or above, who reside in Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin, by the end of 2018. Citizens can apply for the card through any nearby government office.
The new tracking system coincides with the Chinese cabinet’s plan to increase its reliance on big data, which was announced in August, 2015. The announcement was followed by services targeting senior and disabled citizens.
Last year, the government set up a detailed data base for elder citizens that includes their income, living conditions and need for companionship. The data cannot be shared or distributed without a prior approval from the government.