For the emergency services, communications aren’t just important, they can be a matter of life and death. That’s something we understand, having been trusted by the sector for more than 25 years to support critical decisions around IT.
Technology plays a huge role in what the emergency services do and how they interact with the public, with an increasing focus on digital delivery, agility and mobility. Whether it’s national public-safety radio programmes or shared IT collaborations, we have helped police, ambulance, fire and coastguard organisations – in the UK and overseas – to design and deploy cost-effective yet highly resilient systems.
Blue-light organisations share some key challenges around resilience, cost reduction, and data management and security. Our team has provided advice and assurance for major critical projects around the world, including in the UK, Ireland, Norway, the Middle-East, the Caribbean and Hong Kong, including IT strategy, OpModel, networks, end-user-services, application rationalisation, hosting, cloud, telephony services, mobile communications, command and control, digital data and storage, and IT security. Using our many years of experience, here’s our overview of those challenges.
It’s one of life’s ironies that emergency service IT systems have to be at their best when they’re under most strain. Users – and the public – need to know that blue-light IT systems have been carefully designed to withstand modern-day pressures and deal with crisis situations. That means specifying the right outcomes from the very start of the design process through to finding the right contractual controls to get the best performance from service providers.
It’s a difficult balance: supporting the increasing demands on IT and protecting front-line services, while budgets are under pressure. Digital delivery is one of the keys to improving contact with the public, including providing ‘self-service’ options and improving first-time resolution. Digitisation can also help to provide staff with access to the right information, at the right time, to improve operational performance.
Transformation and savings
Now more than ever, blue-light organisations have to simplify and rationalise IT estates to support shrinking budgets, while still introducing innovation. As well as bringing new services online, public-safety IT departments are sharing back-office and IT functions (sometimes with the wider public sector) as well as wider sharing of services and IT. This can produce savings, but also requires a significant amount of effort to reduce levels of complexity, duplication and operating overhead.
Public-safety services capture, create and share a huge amount of digital data, from body-worn camera images and emergency call recordings to policy documents and Twitter feeds. This is a huge task, and many organisations are just at the beginning of forming a strategy for centralised data storage, applications and databases, that also protects the highly sensitive data involved.
With increased threats such as terrorism and cyber attacks, as well as the need to share sensitive information, public-safety IT systems need to maintain appropriate levels of security. And this needs to take place in the context of national directives, such as the UK’s Public Services Network (PSN) Code of Connection, the Government Classification Scheme (GCS), and National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) guidance. Blue-light services must stay on top of security governance, risk management and treatment, and security procedures, as well as replacing legacy and unsupported IT systems to meet modern security requirements.