Just like many other industries, the UK’s Police Forces have undertaken a significant digital transformation over the last few years with an increase in the use of mobile technologies, data, devices, and analytics. However, when it comes to cloud hosted applications, it is fair to say that the Police are not early-adopters when compared to other sectors who are already on board and reaping the benefits of cloud technology.
In this article, we will look at the reasons behind this late adoption and what the future of cloud technology, such as voice and video applications might look like in UK Police Forces.
Up until now, the Police have made some good moves into technology to make public services more efficient and cost-effective, with Forces up and down the country providing Officers with tablets and smartphones to record statements and access vital information. Digital enablement and utilization of this technology has had a profound effect but there is more to be done, especially with the Police under immense pressure to modernize technology whilst maintaining service delivery and meeting the financial demands of the sector.
UK Police Forces are currently going through a further digital transformation in terms of technology, which is no longer limited to the devices they use. As part of the National Policing Digital strategy 2020-2030 aimed at using digital technology to provide a seamless citizen experience, enable officers and empower the private sector, a large portion of Police Forces in the UK are now working through The National Enabling Programmes (NEP) to provide a modern technology environment that is fundamental to transforming ways of working across policing in the UK.
When we think about why the Police have been late to embrace cloud technology, it is important to think about the work carried out by the Police. One of the reasons for late adoption is perhaps the sensitive nature of police work and the requirement for effective and secure data protection processes. However, data protection has come a long way in the last couple of years with public cloud vendors investing billions of pounds into securing their platforms and ensuring they are compliant.
A comprehensive security assessment of the physical infrastructure of Microsoft Azure data centers in the UK concluded that they are in compliance with National Police Information Risk Management Team (NPIRT) requirements without needing any remedial actions. This successful physical audit means that Microsoft business cloud services can now support Police Forces across the UK who require Police-Assured Secure Facilities (PASF) to process and store their data in the cloud.
Another barrier to adoption could be culture and resistance to change. The way that Officers carry out their work has remained largely unchanged over the last few decades and this perhaps breeds a mindset of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, cloud technology has been a part of our personal lives for some time now with many of us using cloud storage solutions such as iCloud and Google Drive every day. Therefore, Officers will have picked up cloud knowledge and skills that are transferable to Police work making it an easy and comfortable switch.
In addition, face-to-face contact in Police work has historically been an essential part of the job, with interviews with victims and witnesses ordinarily carried out in person. This could present a barrier to the adoption of cloud-based voice and video technology as similarly to culture, this way of working is how it’s always been done and is what is expected by society.
With the National Enabling Programmes encouraging Forces in the country to adopt a Microsoft Office 365 environment, there is a lot of scope for cloud hosted technologies to form part of their digital transformation in the future.
For example, at Modality, Humberside Police is currently using our OneConsultation cloud-based video solution in conjunction with Microsoft technology to enable immediate, private and high-quality video interviews. OneConsultation works with an existing Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business environment, allowing for a seamless cloud transition. This technology enables Officers to continue carrying out their role remotely – which is particularly important during the Coronavirus pandemic – whilst communicating effectively with victims and witnesses of crimes just as they would in an office environment.
In the future, as the Police roll out more voice and video enabling technology and as the Microsoft Teams app develops further, we expect to see a big increase in transitions to cloud technology that will improve communications and productivity across the UK’s Police Forces.
Modality has been working with the Police for around a decade, initially supporting Forces with their on-premise Lync server deployments and later implementing Skype for Business solutions to enable instant messaging and more efficient working practices in administration functions. With the move into the cloud progressing all the time and remote working becoming ever more prevalent, we don’t think it’ll be too long before we’re supporting Police Forces to further enhance their technology stack with the latest communication and collaboration tools.