What does the tech sector need from central and local government?

The future can be your reality. The ideas and opportunities that we have described over this last week of blogs are both feasible and viable. Indeed, many of them are already a reality, whether in private sector industries or in small pockets of public safety agencies. We recognise however that there are still barriers in place to making this future a reality, even before our collective ecosystem can take advantage of the opportunities out there. So, what do we, as part of that tech ecosystem, ask for to help drive that transformation agenda? How can we bring our mutual strengths to put that public safety vision in place? 

Agile Governance  

It still takes far too long to make decisions on what legislation should be put in place to cover the use of new technology within the public safety arena.  The pace of technology change does not however respect the regulatory and legislative frameworks that were created decades ago: technology is advancing at a rapid rate and is only going to get quicker. If public safety is to be allowed to use some of this new tech, then the regulatory and legislative framework needs to be able to pre-empt, explore and structure how technology advancements are deployed. This can involve practical changes, such as privacy and ethics commissions, but will also require increased courage and willingness for transparent public debate. 

Strategic Planning and Funding 

The current ‘in-year’ funding model does not support complex technology transformation, which often requires medium to long term commitment. Currently, funding is decided mainly on a year-by-year basis, with budgets approved and communicated part way through a year. Public safety organisations then have a compressed timescale to then spend it. Matching funding horizons with the expected duration of transformation projects would allow us to collectively commit to a change, rather than trying to dilute our ambition to what we can achieve in a few months. Rationalising the funding process would also remove unnecessary delays and allow for streamlined decision making and the agile governance described above.  

A Central Mandate  

The creation of the OPCC construct brought with it an additional 43 decision making organisations. This has further diluted the ability for individual forces to collaborate and create economies of scale. UK policing is at a tipping point where it can either step back and consider how it is arranged and organised to solve these challenges, or remain as is and continue to see the same symptoms and difficulties. A shared transformation vision that sets out what policing of the future will look and feel like should be developed, setting a common direction for all public safety. This however must be a vision that all can subscribe to – not just a “top down” piecemeal view that is prescribed to forces. It should cover everything that is needed for public safety to be effective in a digitally enabled world, from how to recruit and retain officers, to pre-empting and preventing local, national and global threat. 

Work, Not Workforce  

We are in the era of reimagining the role of the human in the context of work, and public safety should be no different. Proactively understand not just your workforce and how people are deployed, but also the type of work that is being done. Consider how technology can help support your people in the delivering the fundamental policing mission of reducing threat, risk and harm. Start with a positive intent to debate, allowing people to express any concerns and anxiety, moving to collective ambition, trust and support for adoption of new technology. Don’t let this happen to you – look at the big picture and start to configure the workforce of the future. 

These requests are neither new, nor complex. They are our continued call to action to you as public safety agencies, areas which we believe will help us to work together, as partners, to truly transform the future of public safety. Above all, don’t let the conversation end here. Work with us, test us, and disagree with us if you will – but continue to talk to us. Whether a public safety organisation or part of the tech ecosystem, we are all invested in and committed to making your future a reality. 

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