In 2013, the British government urged departments and Public Sector organisations to adopt a “cloud first” strategy when procuring IT services. The intervening years have seen an increase in adoption in Whitehall and beyond, and it seems as though the UK’s police forces are now set to follow suit.
According to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, 75% of police forces still manage some of their data and applications on-premise, while 71% store less than a quarter of their data in the cloud. More than a tenth (13%) do not store anything in the cloud at all.
However, FOI requests also show 88% of forces are considering investing in SaaS, PaaS or IaaS services within the next 12 months. As policing in the UK becomes increasingly digitised and public cloud platforms mature, cloud is seen as an essential tool in driving innovation, efficiency and productivity.
After all, many of the same advantages that apply to businesses and other Public Sector organisations apply to the police.
Cloud allows organisations of all sizes to benefit from huge amounts of storage and computational power, and to harness the power of analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These benefits can be achieved without need to invest in on-premise infrastructure.
Police officers can be equipped with mobile devices that allow them to collect and access information in the field, meaning they spend less time at a desk and more time on the streets.
Meanwhile, the use of AI allows for entirely new applications in the fields of image recognition and data analysis. Intelligent policing solutions allow for digital investigations, predictive policing initiatives and social media monitoring, while they also allow forces to cope with the increasing volume and variety of data.
If this information is stored remotely, then forces can share information with each other without the need to physically retrieve data, such as CCTV footage, from another station. Travel wastes police time and also increases the risk of data loss by using a USB stick. Cloud-based data storage lays the foundation for a national database that will make AI applications even more powerful – especially in data intensive fields such as counter terrorism.
The cost-effectiveness of the cloud cannot be understated. Despite the government recently announcing a recruitment drive that will see an additional 20,000 police officers on the streets, forces across England and Wales have had to contend with shrinking budgets.
Smaller budgets might make police IT departments reluctant to invest in new infrastructure, but cloud adoption actually facilitates a shift from a CapEx to an OpEx model, making IT requirements easier to budget.
Cloud services are subscription based, which means police forces can scale up or down depending on their requirements. What’s more, the cloud offers lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) when compared with on-premise infrastructure. Cloud services also eliminate the need to employ huge numbers of IT staff tasked with updating the software as this is all done remotely.
Barriers to Adoption
Given the sensitive nature of police work, data protection is an understandable concern. However, public cloud vendors invest billions of pounds protecting their platforms, while some have made specific provisions for the Public Sector.
For example, Microsoft has UK-based Azure data centres that ensure compliance with data protection regulations. The data centres are approved by the UK’s National Police Information Risk Management Team and have been signed off by the Home Office to ‘Level 3’, which allows for the storage of sensitive information.
Culture has been another barrier, but the consumerisation of IT means that officers have acquired additional technical skills through their personal lives. This means the idea of recording a witness statement or taking notes on a mobile device isn’t as alien as it once was.
Technical barriers are also eroding. At a national level, there have been moves to encourage police forces to digitise their operations. Three National Enabling Programmes (NEPs) form part of the Policing Vision 2025 and will help police forces across the UK adopt new identity, security and productivity services.
The path to the cloud has been aided by the creation of a Microsoft Azure blueprint by the National Police Technology Committee (NPTC) while the establishment of the Police ICT Company is helping to drive economies of scale by leveraging the purchasing power of the UK’s police forces.
Interest in the cloud among police forces is growing all the time. For example, the Metropolitan Police Service is using Azure to develop new digital investigation processes and providing officers with secure access to Office 365. In addition, the NEP is engaged with every force around the UK in some way along the journey.
If forces are concerned about any barriers that still persist, or if they fear they lack the technical capabilities to move to the cloud, then a trusted partner can help with migration and optimise cloud deployments.
Insight has worked as a local delivery support partner for police forces to meet the National Police Technology Committee (NPTC) criteria in the adoption of Microsoft Azure and has partnered with the Police ICT Company.
Insight’s portfolio of managed services helps with the planning, deployment and maintenance of cloud technologies, while we work with specialist partners to deliver digital policing services. These include intelligent policing solutions that aid investigations and analyse evidence and initiatives to mobilise frontline officers.
The technological challenges are being solved, awareness is rising, and now the relevant support is present to unleash a cloud-based Digital Revolution in policing.
Contact the Insight Police Team to find out more about how Insight can support your digital policing initiatives.