Police forces must harness digital technology for effective police service delivery

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To promote modernisation and of policing across the country, Tech Observer magazine in association with software technology giant VMware organised a webinar focused on Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS).

During hour-long deliberations, technology experts and senior police officials including Ram Phal Pawar (IPS), Director, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB); R K Vij (IPS), Special DG, Chhattisgarh Police; Dr Ravi Prakash Meharda (IPS), ADGP, Rajasthan Police; Harmeet Singh (IPS), ADGP, Assam Police and Anil Kumar Gupta (IPS), ADGP, Madhya Pradesh Police emphasized on the potential of technology to transform the way policing is delivered.

They were of the views that the current COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally appended every segment of society and the policing is no exception. They said that since both criminal activities and interactions with citizens have moved to online, so the police forces and law enforcement agencies must learn to harness digital technology for effective police service delivery.

The webinar began with the welcome note from Tech Observer consulting Editor Ankush Kumar. In his remarks, Kumar said that the prime mission for any police force is to prevent crime and maintain law & order. However, this is easier said than done because, in the age of digital and social media platforms, Police forces are facing increasing public expectations and scrutiny and also there are gradual changes in crime profile and non-crime related activities.

“Both central and the state governments have tried to bring some kind of digital transformation in policing with the help of projects such as CCTNS, the introduction of modern age technologies and mobile applications as an integral part of police IT infra,” said Kumar.

He added: “Digital technology has the potential to transform the way policing is delivered. However, to truly benefit from these new digital capabilities a holistic approach is required – starting with core processes, behaviours and technology backbones.”

While delivering his presentation, Nilesh Goradia, Presales Leader Systems Engineering, Partner & SI India, VMware presented a broad overview of how VMware as a company looks at the Digital Transformation of public service delivery including policing and how its different solutions which empower IT infrastructure, data and software can help police forces across the country meet their goals.

“Our fundamental motto is to enable you to access and deploy securely any applications on any device and any . This is important because heterogeneity in the data centres are increasing and most of the organisations have some level of multi-cloud deployments across their IT infra,” said Goradia.

He explained that there are applications which were built decades ago and they need overhauling. “We are looking to modernize those applications. This is key because every business and government organization are relying on the digital transformation to provide better services to the citizens and the police force is no exception. That is why a lot of new applications are being delivered in API mode like in CCTNS project.”

Stating that VMware Cloud Foundation is a software-defined technology which can help police departments deploy their compute, network and storage from a single management console, he said that VMware’s technology is meant to delivering flawless and secure IT infra across diverse platforms.

Participating in the panel discussion focused on “Modernization and Digital Transformation of Policing” Ram Phal Pawar, Director, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) whose organization has the mandate to spearhead CCTNS project across the country said that barring Bihar and some police stations in the North-Eastern regions which are facing connectivity issue due to tough terrain, about 95% police stations are now using CCTNS application.

He said that currently the entire process of data collection and processing takes about 6-7 months but once the CCTNs is fully operational in all the police stations everything will go online and it will significantly reduce time, improve analytics and prediction.

On the need for improvement in CCTNS, he said that overall user experience for the police personal who operates has to be improved.

“There are various forms that police officers have to file live and they do not have so much time to fill lengthy forms, so we have incomplete data. With incomplete data naturally, the analysis would be partial. So, we have to make these forms simple and application faster and database smarter,” said Pawar.

He also informed that CCTNS application on mobile is in the offing. Currently, Police personals collect data from the field and can only upload it on the desktop in a police station.

“The field level officer would like to know the data and feed the data while he is in the field or at the site of the crime. We are working on to make it mobile-friendly,” Pawar said.

Participating in the discussion Dr Ravi Prakash Meharda, ADGP, Rajasthan Police said that during the pandemic Rajasthan Police had used technology in a very simple way. “During the lockdown, we had a huge demand for passes and our mobile application came handy. Rajasthan Police added some new feature into the application and passes were easily issued to people who needed,” he said.

According to him, initially, there were some glitches and there were some teething problems, but Rajasthan State Crime Record Bureau was very quick to learn on the job and were able to establish a seamless system where e-passes could be issued to the public smoothly.

On CCTNS, he said that a few years back, Rajasthan was quite behind in CCTNS but now, Rajasthan SCRB has come up to that level where even investigating officers have started writing case diaries on CCTNS.

“This is, of course, a learning curve. And a lot of our police officers are learning on how to use this technology,” Meharda said, adding that there is always resistance to change but the police officers are now coming to realize that without technology, they cannot handle huge data.

Sharing his views, Nitin Tandon, Manager, State Government Business, VMware India said that Police forces have emerged as the second most important function after health in times of pandemic.

“We have seen, how the CCTNS project has improved the efficiency of policing. Citizens can access police services in a simplified manner. This has been possible by the adoption of technology and that is why many police departments are now in discussion for the adoption of technology like big data, analytics, artificial intelligence and drone,” Tandon said.

He also explained that the CCTNS project in India has achieved a good milestone. About 95% of police stations have already been covered by this application. The next goal should be the integration of this application with various other functions like courts, prosecution and jail. This will allow people to get all services online and eliminate manual intervention.

“For doing this integration, technology will play a very key role, all the new emerging technology such as analytics, artificial intelligence or big data. They have to be adopted by police. That can be done by modernizing the infrastructure and applications. Also, if they can get all this on mobile, it will save a lot of time and improve efficiency,” said Tandon.

Participating in the discussion, Anil Kumar Gupta, ADGP, Madhya Pradesh Police said technology has come to be a great saviour in these difficult time but the challenge in the government in his view is that government solutions are highly tilted toward desktop model whereas pandemic and project like CCTNS require services on the go and for that, mobile-based solutions are more suited.

“If we could fully migrate to mobile-based solutions, it will be a great enabler. Currently, it is not the thrust area in any government departments,” he said.

Citing the example of his state, he said: “We are going on with CCTNS project in which every police station will have a desktop and only one person will be able to enter information there and all others would be waiting. This is a great disadvantage.”

“Also, with desktop-based solutions, police forces will have to go through the well knows issue related to broadband and SWAN connectivity. In far-flung areas, there is no connectivity. So basically, desktops should be done away with. The mobile-based platform will help us in a great way and improve our performance,” said Gupta.

Adding to the views of Gupta, Goradia of VMware said providing an omnichannel experience even for the internal user is important. He said that VMware technology can securely deliver applications and services on different devices significantly improving user experience.

“We at VMware can allow accessing any application on any device. So, the application, which is available on the desktop, can be factored in the normal mobile application. We can deliver that application securely on any kind of mobile devices.”

He added: “Even on a personal device, segregation could be done between citizen-centric apps and personal use applications. In case, if there are upgrades which are frequently required to update that application, the organisation should be able to do it from a central location.”
All the panellists agreed that an integrated technology platform has proven to be a great enabler in new normal and now they are looking to imbibe next-generation technology to improve their IT resiliency for any emergency.

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