Voices from Accenture Public Service


“Amplify You,” the headline for the Accenture Technology Vision 2017, underscores the myriad ways in which technology is being used to empower people. Far from sitting back and letting technology happen to them, we’re seeing leading organizations shaping new digital tools and capabilities to fit their needs. More than ever before, we as humans control our own destiny. But the reasons explored in the Vision may surprise you, but it’s a development that’s going to usher in a new era for public safety and public safety agencies.

We are increasingly familiar with the breakneck pace of change in the world today and the fact it is only going to get faster. The many and complex issues this throws up for public safety organizations from old threats finding new forms, to entirely new and increasingly global threats and vulnerabilities. The growing challenge of identifying risk, threat and harm from a diverse and rapidly growing dataset. This is coupled with increasing expectations of a public used to living in a digital world. Collaboration, between agencies, governments, the private and third sectors and importantly with citizens themselves is key to successfully countering these threats. Importantly, as technology grows in sophistication, it is not the technology itself driving the change—it is us, and public safety agencies must take this chance to shape it.

Technology can help to drive this wider collaboration possible by opening the door to a range of new ecosystem-based partnerships. We’re seeing forward looking public safety organizations putting people in control by starting to make digital tools and capabilities work for them—not waiting and wondering how the latest advances will change things but getting them to work to benefit them. As they do so, they’re unlocking enormous potential for new, more insight driven, collaborative and preventative approaches to public safety.

With technology developed by people for people, we’ll increasingly see citizens empowered to get closer to public safety, engaging more with policing and being more proactive in their approach. Front-line police officers, meanwhile, will be empowered by technology which better fits their needs in multiple ways, with instant access to real-time information when, where and how they need it and delivered to them in a form which is easier to consume and action. And at a broader level, we’ll see truly empowered partnerships in which various actors can come together seamlessly to address common problems both locally, regionally, nationally and even globally.

We’re entering a new era of collaborative law enforcement where, the biggest innovations will not be the technology tools themselves, but how we design and use them with people in mind. To illustrate this the Accenture Technology Vision 2017, highlights five key trends shaping this new era:

The first trend, “AI is the new UI,” recognizes how simple, smart interactions between people and technology are enabling AI to come of age and become established as the new user interface. In public safety, AI will be used to break down barriers between citizens and the public safety agencies, with new ways to interact (like chatbots and portals) helping to create seamless communication and more effective, intuitive services. Higher levels of self service will become possible, freeing up time and accelerating more efficient outcomes.

We’ll see more police forces using AI (in the shape of automation and machine learning) to establish presences in the virtual world, monitor activity there, identify any potential threats early on and to seek to divert those who are vulnerable. AI is also being increasingly used to turn video into a resource that can be rapidly searched, indexed and retrieved on demand. With the wealth of video data flowing from CCTV, body-worn cameras, social media, and other sources, police forces now have the tools they need to harness this information and turn it to their advantage.

The next trend, “Ecosystem Power Plays,” focuses on the complex digital ecosystems that are being created as organizations integrate core business functionalities with third parties and their platforms. In a public safety context, these ecosystems will enable ever greater collaboration, with information and ideas flowing freely between partners. Some of these new partnerships will be unexpected. We’ll see more law enforcement agencies bringing in hackers, design agencies and games developers, for example, to develop solutions that can counter new cyber threats. Take the National Cyber Forensic Training Alliance (NCFTA) in the US, a non-profit platform that fights cybercrime through partnerships between experts in the public, private and academic sectors.

The surge in on-demand labor platforms and work management solutions is behind the third trend, “Workforce Marketplace.” This examines how, in many businesses, legacy employment models are being replaced by talent marketplaces. It’s a significant shift for public safety organizations too. To attract the digital talent they need, they’ll have to be ready to compete in a radically changed environment, with agile platforms that equip them to bring in the talent they need on a project-by-project basis. To stand out, they’ll also need to leverage what makes them exciting as employers. The new workforce is looking for two key things:

  • meaningful and rewarding work,
  • difficult and interesting problems to solve.

The good news for Public Safety is they have plenty of both! But now they need to package and present it in the talent marketplace.

The fourth trend, “Design for Humans,” emphasizes the importance of ensuring that new technology solutions are developed with the user experience front and center and inspiring new behaviors with technology. It will be essential to ensure that humans (law enforcement officers, citizens and ecosystem partners) can interact seamlessly with the technology at their disposal – it is about providing them with the best experience possible. It’s where new data visualization, along with virtual reality and augmented reality will be such game-changers, by establishing new ways to sense, interpret and augment data.

The final trend, “The Uncharted,” points to the new world that’s being created by digital advances. This is “unmapped territory” and just like every other sector, the rulebook for public safety is being thrown away. This means there is a responsibility to define new regulations, technology standards and ethical approaches so new digital approaches work for people. Given the speed and power of Digital there’s a risk of getting so carried away with the “we could” promise of technology that they overlook the “we should.” Public Safety agencies need to ensure that they create and impose the right ethical standards and approaches in how they adopt and apply these new tools—to ensure they take the public with them on this journey and that public trust is maintained.

The key point for all of us, is the digital revolution we are all part of today is not a cold, dystopian future of robots controlling the world—with visions to RoboCop and Minority Report. It is actually an age of human empowerment, where public safety agencies and the people within them have the power to control their future—to apply Technology for People: Their own officers and staff, those with whom they partner and collaborate and the public they serve.

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