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techUK urges public safety bodies to sign Local Digital Declaration


Mark Say Managing Editor

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IT industry association techUK has called on all public safety organisations to sign up to the Local Digital Declaration.

It has recommended the step as part of the effort to improve interoperability between the systems of all agencies involved in public safety and to encourage the adoption of new technology solutions.

The organisation has made the call in a report, Collaboration for public safety outcomes, that also advocates audits of public authorities’ capabilities and close working with the technology industry.

The report focuses on the opportunities and challenges in public safety, seeing it as part of the general move towards more collaborative working and emphasising the need to include “non-traditional” actors in the field such as local authorities and schools.

Trio of principles

It emphasises three common principles in collaboration – information sharing, joint decision making and coordinated intervention – and says there is a risk that without the right policy, procedures and capacity in place the scope for using technology for better outcomes will be constrained.

This makes it necessary to pay as much attention to cultural and behavioural change in the relevant organisations, creating a “digital mindset” as well infrastructure to support interoperability.

A significant step in this would be for all public safety organisations to sign the Local Digital Declaration, published last year to promote collaboration in delivering local services.

The report points out that, in addition to many local authorities, the London Fire Brigade has signed up, recognising the potential benefits in improved public safety, and calls on other agencies to do so.

Other recommendations include that organisations should carry out an audit of existing collaborative platforms and training arrangements to understand their capabilities and identify gaps; engage with industry to find solutions to problems; gain a better understanding of what data they hold; and identify key partners for data sharing agreements.

In addition, it calls on the Information Commissioner’s Office to help demystify the challenges in data sharing for public safety.

AI potential

The report points to the potential of automation, machine learning and AI to support public safety though improving efficiency and effectiveness and improved accuracy and speed in decision making.

“Data driven technologies have a particularly strong business cases on the preventative side of public safety,” it says.

“With more efficient, accurate insight into potential threats to safety, public safety services may be able to use data driven technologies to better direct the right service to address the issue. This could, in turn, support efforts to reduce demand on the different services, making public safety service delivery more efficient and effective.”

But it also points to challenges that require urgent attention, notably in the interoperability of software and applications, the quality of the data fed into them, and the governance of data sharing. For the latter, it says the General Data Protection Regulation should not be seen as a barrier but a framework for understanding what is shareable within reason.

Georgina Maratheftis, head of local public services at techUK said: “The challenges our communities face can no longer be faced alone, more and more local public services are collaborating to meet the demands and rising expectations of citizens. Technology can enable seamless integration of services to improve quality of processes and outcomes.

“Collaboration is not easy. Alongside the technology, we need the right conditions and culture in place to enable meaningful collaboration. We hope this paper will act as a useful tool for local public service leaders to have the right conversations about digital and transform public safety service.”

Image adapted from work by Neurosurgeon23, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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