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Moira Roberts explains why it is crucial that data is put at the heart of justice and the emergency services.
When thinking of justice and the emergency services, initially our minds go to the teams of police, ambulance and firefighters reacting to incidents and providing a critical frontline response. These are reasonable images to associate with the emergency services. However, we do not often think of the driver behind all these things: data.
Data, although all around us, is often hidden from plain sight and requires the correct approach to pinpoint, gather and organise. And for police services specifically, there is even more pressure to get it right, as data is the key to gathering evidence, managing investigations and supporting a better citizen experience.
For police forces up and down the country there are competing regional and national priorities. While there are some high-level themes that can be applied across all 43 forces, there is not a single digital roadmap that will suit them all. Looking at services that are not as digitally mature, those still recorded with pen and paper, does provide a good starting point.
What are we working with?
While it is easy to point out that data must be managed smartly, this is easier said than done. In a world that is increasingly driven by digital, justice and emergency services are facing their own barriers in an attempt to become digital first.
While the National Digital Policing Strategy (NDPS) has set out the guidelines that police forces should follow, there is a chasm between where they want to be and where they are now.
At the forefront, it identifies the critical data and technology needed to attain safer communities in a world that is digitally disrupted. This would mean that methods for investigation, for example, would be improved through quicker processes.
While this all sounds like a no-brainer for police forces, the landscape of adopting new technologies and establishing a foundation to innovate is a daunting one, especially at the start of the digital transformation journey.
Options to digitise critical services are plentiful, but this can be a challenge where teams are overwhelmed and unsure of how to connect the innately sprawling nature of vendors, providers and more. This is particularly prevalent within legacy estates, where the growth of networks is quick and therefore may require hasty technology implementation.
Police are, first and foremost, protectors first and innovators second. It is the suppliers’ job to adopt the responsibility of technology and innovation, thus aiding organisations in beginning with small steps. This industry can help, but it is a matter of asking what this looks like.
Introducing the digital foundation
Blending the right processes, people and technologies is key to achieving any digital ambition. And it is never too late to begin preparations.
One area that is often addressed too late in the day is networking and it should be prioritised. It is best to think of networking as a digital foundation that can help drive change and innovation in both the short and long term. By building this early on, it becomes easier to harness capabilities as new technologies emerge.
Having the right foundation in place early on gives a solid base to buy, use and consume technologies, capabilities and skills. It forms the solid footing needed to adapt to the changing technology landscape, as well as strengthening systems against the fragility of the world, in instances where macro factors outside of our control can cause a disruptive impact.
While the pace can be fully directed by the force, it gives them greater control over their digital transformation journey – helping them to harness connectivity now as opposed to leaving it the bottom of the priority list, and developing digital as and when they need it.
The volume of data is substantial for these services, and it needs to be able to move between other forces and agencies with ease.
Unfortunately, the UK faces challenges when it comes to county borders, and a lack of interoperability between organisations can often make it difficult for forces to work together and combat, for example, County Lines crime.
There is also a fair amount of involvement with other public sector entities that are often operating on different systems.
We must take a moment to observe the bigger picture and the potential for collaboration in order to utilise data, make decisions and drive outcomes.
To reach this collaboration, teams will need the right support from the right supplier to facilitate a data-first approach.
Data is central to any service progression and it should be treated as seriously as the likes of firearms training.
Safeguarding critical information
Despite all the freedom, security must remain the principal component in this.
Data handled by critical services is, of course, especially sensitive and must be treated so. Police
forces are feeling the strain of having to demonstrate compliance with the existing regulations around security and assurance. As we continue to digitise services and processes, these regulations are expected to grow with them too.
Nonetheless, people deserve – and expect – for their data to be handled and protected unconditionally, meaning that justice and emergency services must have technology that is safe, reliable, and effective.
Wherever forces or teams fall on the level of harnessing digital and data, this needs to remain at the forefront of all that is done.
You can find the original article at Police Professional.
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