John Wright, Head of Strategic Initiatives at Unisys, outlines the importance of a digitally integrated justice system and how this can be achieved…
European central and local governmental departments are perpetually challenged by the need to drive greater digital initiatives to enable integration across their own departments and between those which they collaborate and coordinate with.
Firstly, there is a constant pressure to reduce costs while driving efficiency through intelligent IT deployment. Secondly, there is a certain level of expectation from tech-savvy citizens that demand customer-friendly services through mobile devices, the cloud and in real-time.
Crime and justice services in particular have much to gain from embracing digital integration. However, the complexity of their structure – containing multiple and contrasting departments – and the sensitive nature of the information processed makes this development a slow one. Across much of Europe, departments delivering crime and justice services to citizens are tied down by bureaucracy and the fear of public inquest and litigation if something is found to be wrong.
Totally autonomous departments with their own budgets, lack of cross-agency funding and no centralised leadership means that a lot of departments that need to collaborate with each other on a daily basis are usually divided by digital walls.
An end-to-end crime and justice system that is linked by a single IT system is unlikely. Despite this, departments cannot afford to ignore the obvious benefits of innovative technology, nor should they be railroaded into short-term fixes that are not equipped to deliver long-term benefits.
There are many examples of departments within crime and justice improving operations through the innovative deployment of technology. We have seen police forces harnessing big data and analytics via case management systems which capture and processing vast quantities of data and case evidence. There has even been integration between courts, police and probation services to improve the efficiency of trials be optimising document and evidence tracking across departments improving the chances of successful trial completion.
So what are the crucial decisions CIO’s and digital leaders within the justice system need to consider when trying to integrate departments under one unified IT strategy? Here are the important factors that need to be taken into account before making a change:
1. Make any changes incremental. In the absence of a holistic, cross-sector strategy, look closely at the small measures you can make across your department
2. Plan for future needs. Pick solutions which offer openness and standardisation. Whilst integration with certain departments might not be possible now, maximise the future potential for integration by choosing solutions that present data in standardised, open formats
3. What are the infrastructure requirements? Ensure that infrastructure can support new services and the necessary data requirements to power those services. For example, many police forces are now gathering huge volumes of video data from body worn police cameras and as video evidence from witnesses. But if back office infrastructure can’t securely store such data, then investment in expensive recording devices, or video gathering platforms will not show ROI
4. Integrate the needs of citizens. Citizens demand a better service from their government. Victims and witnesses expect access to government to be on a par with their consumer experience – mobile apps, web portals, 24/7 access to services and information are pre-requisites, not exceptions
5. Adopt best practice: With widespread impetus towards digitising government processes, leaders in crime and justice should seek out best practice and learn the lessons from other government departments. In doing this they can get ahead of the digital curve on what citizens want
Crime and justice departments across Europe are at a severe risk of missing out on the advantages of the digital revolution. They all need to understand that the consequences of failing to join-up justice departments though increased digitisation and integration are not just financial. Increasingly, citizens will lose confidence in the public justice system if they don’t see their experiences mirroring those which are commonplace elsewhere in their lives.
Head of Strategic Initiatives