Public safety agencies globally are undergoing a process of digital reinvention, some facets of which have been further catalyzed by the impact of COVID-19. Three umbrella drivers are furthering these trends: digital transformation and reinvention, the future of digital trust, and digital intelligence.
A Shift in Priorities
When we first began developing the content for the Top Ten Tech Trends in Public Safety webinar, from its source document on IDC.com here, it was clear that COVID-19 would impact each trend in different ways. What is also clear now is that each tech trend will be affected by the surge to address inequality, by race, class, or gender, of the police response.
The abuse of power by police is not new, but the widespread adoption of consumer technology is increasingly providing damning video evidence of social injustice and the misuse of power by police authorities. Examples in 2019 and 2020 have been seen in Hong Kong and the United States in which mass protests and the police reaction have activated global movements and support.
These events and their corresponding backlash and public outrage are not intrinsically linked to technological change or technology adoption, nor a blanket condemnation of all police departments and police services. Yet smartphone video capture of each incident, broadly circulated on social media, has created important counterfactual narratives to abuse of power. The magnitude of the crisis and the profundity of required change (such as in the United States with demands to defund and demilitarize the police) is recasting public safety dynamics and priorities and calls to implement measures that will need to be in place to reinstate legitimacy.
Key Driving Technology Trends in Public Safety
We could conceivably add a parallel section on the impact the current racial strife is having on this as well; however, we are in the early stages of understanding the full extent of this movement. For example, as public safety agencies radically rethink workflow (trend number 1), cities and states are radically rethinking policing. As public safety agencies seek to use technology as a force multiplier (trend number 2 and number 3), there will be calls for great clarity and understanding of how to do so in ways that are not perpetuating inequality (trend number 6 and number 10). We can expect the techlash against surveillance and tracking (trend number 4) to be amplified. The role that social media platforms play in global information dissemination (trend number 7) will take center stage. Misinformation and disinformation (trend number 5) will be in the spotlight. The mobile-first workforce (trend number 9) will be scrutinized more carefully as social justice champions question adding more advanced technology tools to the existing police arsenal. Indeed, of the list, the only trend that seems largely unaffected is trend number 8 — first responders as a sensor.
Public Safety Challenged by COVID-19
That said, there are many ways in which the COVID-19 crisis, and the social justice crisis, speak to or herald the same issues. People didn’t listen early or deeply enough. Government didn’t prepare. Government didn’t keep its people safe. People and leadership did not work with facts. Both impact the disenfranchised disproportionately. Both are viral, transnational, and digitally mediated phenomena. Both are predicated on systems of false immunity. Both make it clear how deeply interconnected we are as a species. Both generate needless deaths.
It is also important to mention that physical distancing and the economic impact from COVID-19 lead to pent-up stress, anger, and anxiety, globally, which collectively act as a vector to impassion protestors and trigger strong public responses. This not only requires a response by public safety to help maintain safety and social order but also requires them to engage in the paradigm shift in cultural education that is likely to follow.
To learn more about the key technological trends for public safety agencies globally and successful policy framework implementations, join Alison Brooks during her webinar, Top Ten Tech Trends in Public Safety, live on August 11th at 11 AM/EST.