How much should police forces be spending on digital transformation?

In 2018, the Home Office announced an investment of more than £100 million to transform how police forces use technology as part of the Police Transformation Fund. This investment saw £70 million invested into four police-led programmes, including a unified IT system for policing and a Digital Policing Portfolio which enables the public to report low-level incidents through an online portal.

These investments aim to improve efficiency and boost the ability of the force to deal with major threats, ultimately creating a more agile and responsive service.

Where are the budgets being spent?

With this foundation in place, it’s now crucial to ensure that these aims are filtering down to the front line.

We sent out a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to police forces across England and Wales asking about where their IT budgets were being spent in 2018. The results were promising and indicated a positive large-scale move towards increased efficiency through technology. Although 40% of IT budgets in 2018 were still being spent on maintaining the current IT infrastructure, there has been a promising move towards digital transformation across forces.

Behind Lincolnshire Police’s digital transformation journey

Andrew White, COO at Lincolnshire Police, explains to Information Age why they’re putting digital technology on the front line

Over a quarter (28%) of police IT budgets in 2018 were invested into digital transformation, which means that more forces are beginning to adopt technologies that can improve knowledge sharing and ultimately save costs. Cloud-based systems, for example, are beginning to be adopted across the forces which can support technologies including body-worn video and smartphone devices.

More may need to be done, however, to ensure that this message is being made clear across the forces since some reported that they spent nothing at all on digital transformation across the year.

Transforming the future

Quick access to information, particularly between forces, is essential for a more dynamic and responsive police force, but it’s vital that the police are investing their money into the right digital solutions to achieve this.

A recent trend has seen police forces hand over the daily management of IT infrastructure to third parties, with our FOI request revealing that this accounted for almost a third (32%) of IT budgets in 2018. Often, this is done to increase the IT spend available for more transformational or strategic activities, but this can take the form of expensive, long-term contracts which offer little flexibility.

Ineffective technology threatens the police force

John Kellett, Cloud Practise Manager at Eduserv, explores, in Information Age, the results of the Police ICT User Survey

It’s important, therefore, that police forces invest in third-party management that’s right for them, and choose a solution that’s suited to a fast-moving and agile workplace that must stay fully up to date with the latest threats.

With police budgets being increasingly stretched to their limit, it’s important that technology remains a priority. But in a world where crime is growing increasingly sophisticated and technology-driven, it’s essential that the police forces are ensuring that they’re keeping up to speed. Investment in the right kinds of third-party management to enable digital transformation will be crucial to drive this change.

Written by Ian Jackson, CCO at Intercity Technology

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