As a frequent visitor to 14 Riverside in Nairobi, home to many tech firms, which was attacked by terrorists last week, I send my deepest condolences to the families that lost their loved ones. I also pray for those who were injured and wish them quick recovery. These heinous people have once again dampened our spirits.
However, as we have always done, we shall rise up. To paraphrase Gloria Gaynor’s song, we shall survive! To do so, we must become wiser every time they strike. The lull we had experienced made us forget that these people live within us.
We had even forgotten those anniversaries that they observe. Investment in technology could help minimise incidences of attacks in our country as they affect the economy. In my view, the government must fast track biometric registration of all Kenyans and every visitor in the country.
With the investment, they can start harvesting data from the many facial recognition Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras from both public and private facilities to validate the identities of people in strategic places.
In the event there are people that cannot be validated, then the system raises the alarm. The idea is not entirely new.
Many cities that have embraced the smart cities concept (using different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information that is used to manage assets and resources efficiently) can isolate a new face in town within minutes of being captured on camera.
Indeed, the CCTV footage from the scene of attack showed the terrorists’faces.N ow that it has emerged that these evil people had visited the venue of the attack two weeks before, the system should have aroused the curiosity of the security agents to be on the alert.
With a good technology solution, these people could have been tracked in those two weeks to know their movements and possibly stop them before they caused harm.
Sentiment analytics on social media content is also an imperative to provide early warning signs of what could happen.
These tools are easily available to gather social media content and analyse what is being discussed or expressed by different types of people for security purposes.
Simple data analytics reveal some patterns that can be codified to determine which periods we must have highest preparedness for possible attacks.
If you take into consideration terrorist attacks in other parts of the world as well as those that have happened in Kenya, there is a pattern where terrorists strike on the anniversary of some aspect that caused losses on their part.
Most of those dates are known and could be programmed into a database to remind people to be careful.A similar pattern is also emerging around the selection of places where these people execute their terrorists’ acts. Westgate, 14 Riverside and Garissa University had some common features – poor escape routes.
Terrorists select sites where they can kill many people. In addition, iconic buildings, facilities owned by certain groups and conference facilities with many foreign dignitaries add to the target list where greater precaution should always be taken.
This obvious omission is not a common feature in forward looking cities. City administrations do not approve buildings that do not exhibit risk mitigation factors like exits in the event of emergencies.
Now that we know of many facilities that are simply traps for catastrophe, we must go beyond rhetoric and start the implementation of risk mitigation measures.
All public facilities must take into consideration risks such as terrorism to make rescue operations easier to undertake.
There must be no exception to this rule. Those that fail to adhere should be simply be denied business licences. We must never surrender to the terrorists.
We, however, must understand their modus operandi, use technology to smoke them out and deal with them ruthlessly. The law must also deal with those who shelter terrorists.
The author is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business.