techUK is exploring the world in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic with a series of weekly webinars. Far from pretending to be able to offer solutions to what’s likely to be the most complicated public policy jigsaw in a generation, we believe that bringing bright minds together will breed good ideas for the future.
The Emergency Services post-COVID webinar highlighted a move towards this ‘new way of working’ and what this means for the public and private sectors. We explored what the impact has been on staff who, with very little notice, had to move their daily operations home. We asked, have we seen organisations effectively respond and initiate their contingency plans? Is this way of working we see now still classified as ‘remote’? Or is this the new normal we see our emergency services and justice system edging towards.
Joining us for the Friday morning panel discussion we had, Waheed Saleem, Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, West Midlands Police. Natalie Coaten, Client Executive, Home Office & Police, IBM. Justin Day, CEO, Cloud Gateway. Marcus Potts, Project Lead, Tim Fleming, Joint Security and Resilience Centre (JSaRC), Home Office and Georgie Henley, Programme Manager, Justice & Emergency Services, techUK
1. Digital Transformation Accelerated
In response to current economic disruption, we must embrace digital transformation. We heard from Waheed Saleem who highlighted West Midlands Police’s work in their WMP2020 transformation project which enabled them to develop and introduce new technologies. Much of what we see now was already happening pre-COVID, but the roll out of these technologies has been accelerated as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was echoed by Justin Day, who also added we need to look at fundamentals, such as ensuring we have those foundations in place to be able to efficiently mobilise staff to work from home. Much of this we have seen delivered at pace over the last few months across the board but not all organisations have been able to effectively deliver this.
Digital transformation is not a new goal. Investments had already been made by West Midlands in technology and infrastructure. From technologies allowing response officers to respond to an incident without the need for returning to the station, to 1000 laptops being rolled out to staff enabling those who were self-isolating to still work even when not able to patrol. Plans were in place for the roll out of these technologies and its capabilities, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged forces to bring these plans forward; to digitally transform at pace.
2. New ways of working
“Making use of the technology that allows me to get into what I need but being able to be anywhere in order to consume it”. Justin Day, Cloud Gateway
The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged both public and private sectors to understand how technology can support in service delivery during this crisis, but also if a similar crisis were to occur again. The idea of new innovative technologies supporting emergency services and private sector organisations was highlighted as a response to, for example, staff self-isolating.
Natalie Coaten raised the emotional element and the importance of considering this in a post-COVID world. We have seen emergency services focus on the practical, but what about the emotional? Work in automation was highlighted where we could see the digital worker completing certain tasks, allowing those value-added tasks to be freed up for the human work. For example, Waheed Saleem highlighted the successful roll out of a live chatbot to respond to those ‘frequently asked questions’.
How have we seen our Justice system transform? Waheed Saleem highlighted the use of video enabled justice in order to conduct virtual hearings. This ensuring that the justice system could still function even when following strict government guidelines on social distancing.
Tim Fleming and Marcus Potts also highlighted this clear shift in acceptance of new forms of working. The Home Office needing to move their workforce home and understanding what the impact of this has been is a key focus in understanding the learnings taken from their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, when looking at their work across border force was; what are the opportunities to move towards ‘contactless’ travel. Will this be a new way of working moving forward? An interesting concept to consider moving forward.
We have seen and, rightly so, the impact that this pandemic has had on frontline staff across the NHS. To add to this, consideration needs to be made to ensure we have a fully functional ‘back office’ staff structure to continue to support frontline service delivery. What we have seen over the last few months is not just a technology shift, but a cultural shift where we see a change in mindset from organisations now looking at ‘remote’ and seeing it as the new normal.
The response to the pandemic has accelerated and strengthened the need for more collaborative working across the public and private sectors. Collaboration is not new but needs to be encouraged more and more. Localised information always has and will continue to be shared but what we have seen over the last few months is that national approach to, for example, sharing data and information remotely and the importance of being able to do this across our emergency services and into the justice system. We have seen the NHS on the frontline, but close behind we have seen police forces moved into new roles and new ways of engaging with the public as they enforce new policies and laws. What can our justice system and emergency services learn about collaboration from their response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
4. Crime Trends
It was highlighted by Marcus Potts and Tim Fleming that there has been a significant drop in knife crime since lockdown was enforced. An issue that we all sadly saw monopolise every news outlet with the Home Office, Ambulance Services and Police responding to incidents almost daily. If these incidents were to start to climb again, what does the response need to be? What have we learnt already? JSaRC are keen to engage with non-traditional tech partners to look for solutions and understand the next best steps.
Not only did this webinar highlight several excellent responses to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also shone a light on the fact that much of what has been delivered, was already in the development pipeline. We have just seen much of this transformation be delivered at pace over the past few months. It is evident that there is an over-arching focus on what this ‘new way of working’ might look like and, actually, are our workforces able to work ‘remotely’ both efficiently and effectively? For those on the frontline who cannot work ‘remotely’, are there technologies readily available to support in the delivery of their day-to-day tasks? The response to this crisis is clear. We, as an industry and sector can function in a crisis, can adapt, collaborate and support one another, but there are technological developments which can further support in this response should a similar crisis occur again. It is about identifying what those needs are and learning from the last few months.
I want to thank our speakers – Waheed, Natalie, Justin, Marcus and Tim for joining us on this panel discussion and all those who got involved in our live Q&A session. Please continue to send your questions through. techUK are here to represent the wider tech industry and are keen to continue these conversations with the panel and our wider partners. Thank you for joining us.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with Georgie – Georgina.Henley@techUK.org
You can watch the full webinar below
Read summaries and watch recordings of past sessions below:
Week of 06 July – Sustainability