Over the past year, the world has changed dramatically for all of us, including government organizations. According to our Accenture Technology Vision 2021, 99% of the public sector organizations surveyed said that COVID-19 had created unprecedented stresses on their technology architecture, strategy, workforce, or processes.

In other words, these organizations were tested to breaking point. But critically, they didn’t break. It is true, they discovered weaknesses in adaptability, innovation and connectedness. But they also pivoted to handle the resulting challenges far faster than they ever believed possible as a result of considerable effort, to ensure key citizen services and security were maintained in a time of need.

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It is going to be critical for public safety leaders to adopt different mindsets and models in response to large-scale, ongoing change, by becoming more flexible and adaptable.

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Four realities

Nowhere has this stress-test of public services been felt more keenly than in public safety agencies. COVID-19 changed the nature of the threat faced, elevated the need to support and protect the workforce and meant navigating a difficult balance between enforcing new and evolving legislation whilst maintaining community engagement.

The pressures faced also went beyond specific COVID-19-related tasks. They also needed to address the increasing cyber threat, respond to natural disasters and build and maintain community trust and confidence. With this, public safety and policing agencies found themselves having to adjust and adapt.

Agencies are now confronted with four new realities:

  • First, human behavior has changed. We are now living in a far more connected digital world, which brings new threats that public safety agencies must deal with – and new expectations from the public and communities they serve.
  • Second, every organization is now a technology organization – and public safety organizations are no exception. Nowadays almost every crime has a digital focus, either in how it’s committed or how it’s solved, and often both. Cybersecurity and technology are no longer distinct from day-to-day policing: every police officer needs to be digitally aware.
  • Third, there is a shift in how and where people work. For public safety, this impacts everything from operational flexibility and focus to officers’ skills and welfare.
  • Finally, sustainability, is now something that every public service organization must take into consideration – not just within its own operations, but along the entire supply chain.

Faced with these new realities, the challenge for public safety agencies is to work out how to respond while continuing to focus resources effectively on fast-evolving threats. How can they become more flexible and nimble organizations, better suited to today’s environment? The five trends highlighted in this year’s Accenture Technology Vision 2021 can help to map out the path.

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Stack strategically - architecting a better future

This trend is all about maximizing the benefit from advances in technology by architecting a better future. In our Accenture Technology Vision 2021 research, over 85% of public safety respondents agree that their organizations’ business and technology strategies are becoming inseparable – even indistinguishable.

To deliver on both at once, agencies need to take critical decisions like how to embrace the cloud, how to remove embedded siloes and harness the power of platforms, and how to get to grips with the mass of data now available to them. Analytics and AI are key to doing this – but it is critical they are implemented in ways which secure and build public trust.

Imagine if officers were able to have view of an incident and those involved before they arrived, providing them with real-time situational awareness, equipping them to manage the scene and support those involved.

Mirrored world - the power of massive, intelligent digital twins

Intelligent “digital twins” technology has come of age, offering agencies access to a whole new level of insight. For example, there’s the potential to use digital twins at large public events and stadiums to improve policing and scenario planning. But this technology’s biggest impact lies in its wider connectivity and linking of many twins together.

Implemented across a city, it can create a parallel transformative system with a truly intelligent control room at its heart, understanding when and where incidents might occur and anticipating the outcomes of different police responses.

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of public safety agencies agree that their organization requires a mission control/central intelligence hub to gain insights into complexities and model processes, people and assets.

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I, Technologist - the democratisation of technology

This trend is about democratization – putting the right technology into the hands of police officers. About 90% of public safety agencies agree that the benefits of their organization’s digital transformation will be amplified as employees increase their use of technology democratization tools.

Today, every police officer must be a digital officer. And this is also about making sure information is presented to police officers in a way that is uniquely tailored to their needs via easily accessible dashboards and interfaces, allowing them to design their own user experience and the way in which they interact and get insight from the data. Putting powerful technology into the hands of officers can empower them to embrace and utilize technology in a more effective way.

For example, simple and intuitive technology now allows officers to rapidly scan and assess a range of devices at a crime scene to help identify evidence and those which might hold critical information for further investigation.

Anywhere, everywhere - bring your own environment

The mass move to work from home brings a number of implications for public safety. One is that it has created a whole new attack surface for cybercrime. Another is what it means for agencies and organizations themselves, for example, an increase in virtual courts and online delivery of criminal justice services and capabilities.

Given the improved experiences and outcomes for citizens, these initiatives will scale up and extend into areas like virtual investigations, with members of a team in different locations tapping remotely into diverse expertise. Aside from the technology, managing the wider workforce and cultural changes this involves will be key. 

From me to we - a multiparty system's path through chaos

It’s well recognized that public safety agencies need to operate within an ecosystem – responses to the pandemic highlighted just how vital partnerships are. While data-sharing has long been important, it’s now imperative – and must be combined with the tools and capabilities to drive the right sort of insights, rapidly and securely.

Take modern slavery. To help combat this complex global crime, we need to have police, local authorities and the private sector collaborating through shared “multiparty systems”. Some 88% of policing and justice organizations agree that these systems will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient and adaptable foundation with their organization’s partners.

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of policing and justice organizations agree that these systems will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient and adaptable foundation with their organization’s partners.

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It is going to be critical for public safety leaders to adopt different mindsets and models in response to large-scale, ongoing change, by becoming more flexible and adaptable. Embracing and prioritizing technology has never been as critical to ensuring that public safety agencies keep pace with a highly complex and rapidly evolving environment.

Which of these trends are having the most impact on your agency? If you’d like to continue the discussion, you can follow me on LinkedIn.

James Slessor

Global Public Safety Lead

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