SMILE App and Teachers Surveillance

Dr Asangba Tzudir

The DoSE’s AI-based SMILE App to monitor teacher’s attendance in Government schools in Nagaland is in motion beginning with three districts – Dimapur including EBRC Kushiabill, Kohima and Phek since 1st of April 2024. A poll survey conducted by this paper regarding this surveillance system on the aspect of improvement of attendance of teachers revealed that 52% of the respondents believe that the system will led to improvement of attendance of teachers in Schools and also get to know any irregularities. Some opined that it will end the culture of proxy teachers. One strongly remarked that the introduction of AI based monitoring system will not serve the intended purpose, that, the matters of teachers’ presence and providing quality education to the students are two different entities. One respondent even commented that the Smile App has lot of glitches saying that the App doesn’t show a same location even in the same location. Another opined that the DoSE need not go up to such extreme technology as AI based system, and that Biometric attendance system is readily available in the market. 

The fact that the physical presence of teachers is now required in the school premises will definitely improve attendance of teachers and will also led to detection of proxy teachers if any. However, if the purpose of introducing the Smile App is simply for monitoring the attendance and presence or absence of teachers, then it will succeed provided there are no technical glitches in the app’s function. The introduction of the Smile App also raises a very pertinent question. That, the Smile App has just started in Schools under three districts of Nagaland, yet, the question being, why should only teachers be put under AI based Surveillance? What about the attendance surveillance of other departments?

On the surveillance aspect, anyone especially those staying near their schools and who would want to violate can simply log in at the specified time at 9:00 am and give their attendance and leave, and return at the specified 1:00 pm to log out. However, beyond quantity, in order to deliver quality education, besides the required qualification, skills and training, it is the moral conscience which needs to be pricked which is beyond the control of machines. 

Further, there should also be quality checks, not done through AI based Apps but conducting surprise checks by concerned department officials or even asking teaching to give teaching demo. It is also imperative for teachers to have a proper lesson plan to deliver the curriculum effectively and qualitatively. On the issue of technical glitches, the contention that the app shows different locations at the same place needs to be verified and rectified. Now, the attendance app comes with different color codes – ‘Green’ means ‘Present’; ‘Red’ means ‘Absent’; ‘Purple’ means ‘Partial presence’; ‘Orange’ means ‘Suspicious’, and ‘Grey’ means ‘Holiday’. However, on the second day of its introduction, a teacher of a particular school reported that, after logging in, her attendance showed ‘Purple’ while others showed ‘Green’. ‘Partial presence’ will make sense only if a teacher fails to give attendance during the log out time. Such technical glitches are bound to happen. However, the aspect of ‘partial presence’ also puts the Smile App under suspicion.

The coming of AI and its applications will no doubt save a lot of time in many ways for humans. But the mechanization of the human mind is a very concerning issue more aggravated by the issues of AI “data bias” and “societal bias.” It will become harder to distinguish humans from machines. However, at the heart of all these issues, it is also time to seriously reflect and question the moral self and the moral autonomy that makes one live as a morally qualified human being.

(Dr Asangba Tzudir writes a weekly guest editorial for the Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to