Information exchange: Police ICT is set to revamp its Knowledge Hub
There are a number of information-sharing forums available to the service, but Police ICT believes that when it comes to ICT more could be done to share best practice, facilitate collaboration and enable access to private ICT providers.
In an ever-changing and austere policing environment, the ability for forces to share and exchange ideas and best practice on ICT with each other as well as connect with suppliers has never been so vital. Given new technology often comes with a handsome price tag, it is imperative forces are aware of their near and far neighbours’ forays into the digital policing world and its impact on their efficiency and effectiveness.
So, when The Police ICT Company embarked on a discovery project in May to find out what the police IT community wanted from its Knowledge Hub, it is perhaps no surprise that the response revealed what Acting CEO Robert Leach called a ‘burning need’ for information to be exchanged in a secure, accessible environment – a place where forces could collaborate, but also connect with police suppliers.
“The community was telling us ‘we don’t know where to go’. We looked at the Knowledge Hub and how it was being used and decided it could be used in a different way to create a secure place to collaborate,” says Robert.
Nora Davies, Knowledge Manager, Police ICT
The Police ICT’s Knowledge Hub has been in place for over two years, but there is now a sense, confirmed by the results of their discovery project, that it is time to increase its scope and number of users even though as Nora Davies, the Company’s Knowledge Manager, notes a number of information-sharing platforms already exist. POLKA, for instance, is hosted by the College of Policing and offers a ‘secure online collaboration tool for the policing community to network, ask questions, share insights, discuss ideas and suggest new ways of working’.
However, The Police ICT Company believes that when it comes to sharing information about ICT, in particular, there remains a substantial gap that they are able to fill. Nora says, “The current landscape of information sharing within policing is quite crowded already with several local but few national systems being used by the forces.
“We are keen to avoid adding more unnecessary noise into the space, but do feel that there are needs that are currently not being met that the Knowledge Hub could help fulfil.”
To ensure a revamped Knowledge Hub would meet its users’ requirements, the Company launched a three-week discovery project at the end of May. “We needed to find out what users need; what similar technologies and solutions exist – and how much they are used; whether existing information sharing systems which require change or re-tendering could usefully leverage the investment in the Knowledge Hub; what our technical options are – and probably most importantly, what the Knowledge Hub shouldn’t be,” says Nora.
As part of the discovery project, the Company carried out 40 interviews and received over 200 responses to a survey distributed within policing-related agencies and suppliers. That survey revealed an overwhelming demand for not just an information-sharing platform on a regional and national level among forces and with national policing bodies, but also one that allowed access to non-policing emergency services agencies. Three quarters of those that responded to the survey also wanted a platform that allowed them to exchange information and enter into discussions with suppliers. Respondents said they wanted a place where they could share best practice around ICT developments and to have a greater appreciation of what other forces in the country were working on.
Overall, the discovery project revealed a strong desire from policing for centralised sharing and collaboration with relevant and easy-to-digest content. Three areas of content were mentioned particularly often: information and updates regarding ongoing national programmes, the publication of common ICT standards and procurement information.
Ultimately, whatever content the Knowledge Hub contains, it must be easy to use and shaped by the police IT community it serves, says Robert. “Our aim is to correlate with the community to create something that is fit for future purpose.”
As previously mentioned, POLKA is a well-established forum for exchanging all kinds of information, not just ICT. It is also unmoderated. Communication between the two organisations is key to ensuring no-one is re-inventing the wheel, and the Company will ensure the College is involved in the progress of the project.
“We are eager to continue to work closely with the College of Policing who administer POLKA, in an effort to ensure that the two systems complement each other as we want to avoid duplication of effort,” says Nora.
Robert adds the two organisations have already agreed to mutually ‘signpost’ information between the two platforms to ensure they complement rather than compete with each other.
With the proposals to redesign the Knowledge Hub now signed off, the next step is to look at what technology platforms are already out there and if they would be suitable for what the users have said they want from the Knowledge Hub or if something new needs to be built.
Early indications are that there are a few existing solutions which could fulfill a large percentage of the user needs established during the discovery exercise, at a lower cost than what it would take to build something from scratch. The Company is very keen to ensure that the solution provides a good platform for collaboration with easy-to-use functionality, that it satisfies stringent security requirements and, of course, that it provides good value for policing. The team are presently in the Alpha stage of the project which involves evaluating off-the-shelf solutions with a view to making a recommendation within the coming weeks.
Article by Tina Orr Munro, Associate Editor, Policing Insight