For the first time ever, the majority of the world’s population lives in a city, and this proportion continues to expand. The World Health Organization assesses the number of urban residents as growing by nearly 60 million every year, and it’s expected to continue increasing by roughly 1.5 percent annually over the next several decades at least.
This means that by the middle of the 21st century, the urban population will have nearly doubled, increasing from approximately 3.4 billion in 2009 to 6.4 billion in 2050, primarily in developing countries. (Check out this fascinating interactive map that shows which areas are predicted to experience the most change.) That’s an astounding number of people that are and will continue to be dependent on those cities’ abilities to be healthy, peaceful, and prosperous.
You may have seen the news about the recent launch of Microsoft CityNext – a global initiative that aims to empower cities, businesses and citizens to better compete in the global marketplace, drive citizen engagement, and foster economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Public safety and justice will be a cornerstone of this program, because safe cities create the foundation for vibrant communities, commerce, growth opportunities, and quality of life. Defending that safety is one of our most important roles – in fact, nothing can be accomplished without it.
As we look to the future, our efforts will focus on two groups that are critical to the safety of citizens: law enforcement officers and first responders. The men and women in these roles have an enormous responsibility to citizens, yet they are too often strapped for the time and resources they need in order to serve as effectively as possible, in areas such as:
Efficiency: In many cases, law enforcement officers are burdened by the volume of data that they need to capture, process, and access, both in the field and at the office. Technology solutions can help alleviate this pressure by providing officers with tools to access and file paperwork in the field as opposed to at the office. Such a system would greatly increase the speed of processing and create tremendous efficiencies across police departments.
Court and judicial officers are facing enormous efficiency challenges as well. Robust e-Justice solutions can help them effectively collect, analyze, and circulate information across multiple jurisdictions, agencies, and organizations to integrate data and communication throughout the complex judicial process, resulting in improved officer safety, more efficient processes, reduced backlog, and lower costs.
Mobility: First responders in particularly are more mobile than ever before, and they need devices that enable collaboration anytime, anywhere. Another key part of our mission will be to serve them with the devices and apps they need to be productive in any scenario – be it at a traffic stop, at their desks, on the road, or during a disaster. Whether their device is personal or department-issue, it should be flexible, secure, and resilient enough to serve a wide variety of needs.
Intelligence: Effective law enforcement depends heavily on the ability to capture and process information in real time and to extract useful intelligence. From the unprecedented Domain Awareness System to the programs that monitor critical infrastructure systems like energy, water, and transportation, the physical technology used in surveillance sensors and cameras is feeding crucial information back to the security teams charged with defending public safety – much faster and more thoroughly than ever before.
Community: Finding ways to incorporate citizens into neighborhood management can be an extremely effective way to support local law enforcement activity. By taking advantage of innovative social media, mobile, and online communications tools, police and city officials can help reduce crime and maintain order by creating channels for ongoing communication within the community. These advancements are particularly important for public safety, where mobile apps, call centers, and web-based advisory sites can help citizens report crimes, and can also help public safety officials alert people to emergency areas or other immediate danger.
By 2050, the U.N. estimates that seven out of every 10 people will live in a city – and serving those global citizens will be no small task. As law enforcement officials, first responders and other public servants continue to safeguard a growing urban population, innovative technology solutions will become an important part of managing this critical responsibility, empowering citizens, and securing a thriving future. We look forward to navigating the challenges together and to embracing the many opportunities ahead.
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