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In Latin America’s public safety landscape, technology is "the" tool

02 February 2012 | Jorge López , Industry Manager, Public Safety and National Security, Microsoft Latin America

​Latin America has experienced incredible societal and political change over the past decade, and that change has brought evolving national security challenges. There is no better example than Colombia, a country that has been fighting an internal conflict for over 45 years. Colombia has made incredible progress in the fight against drugs and crime - reducing violent crime rates by 50 percent in the past decade, according to the United National Office on Drugs and Crime. Technology has been a key component in Colombia’s strategy: from high-tech interception devices and imagery sensors to real-time information sharing across law enforcement agencies.

Mexico is dealing with similar challenges, as powerful drug cartels continue to exert influence within the country. However, like Colombia before them, they are making technology a key part of their public safety effort through critical programs like "Plataforma Mexico" - an integrated communications platform designed to gather and share law enforcement intelligence from across the country. This is one of the most ambitious projects we have seen in the region and a key indicator of the value of information technology (IT) to policing efforts.

In this new world we live in, threats arise not only from the physical world, but from the world of cyberspace. A common misperception is that cyber-attacks only happen in “developed” countries, but recent incidents by hacktivist groups (LulzSec and Anonymus) have impacted several emerging Latino countries. Colombia’s Senate, Peru’s National Police and Government, and several government agencies in Brazil have all been targeted by these groups, and many other countries have been targeted or threatened as well. I think it is safe to assume that these events will only continue to increase and all agencies need to be prepared for it - not only to defend against attacks, but to be able to identify those who are responsible.

Finally, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have dealt with natural disasters throughout history, and they are increasingly turning to technology for identification, response, and recovery. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti offers the most recent example. Haiti’s communications infrastructure was severely degraded and Internet access was lost when fiber optic cables to the island were broken. Thanks to NetHope and donations from companies like Microsoft, satellite connectivity was established relatively quickly to help coordinate the response. In order to foster collaboration between all the international NGOs that were on site to lend a hand, an Internet portal was set up to connect public safety agencies and facilitate coordinated response. Technology helped translate other languages into Haitian Creole to help bridge the translation gap with local residents and agencies. Other technological solutions were brought in to link disparate communications systems together like handheld radios, cell phones, and satellite phones. I encourage you to read our case study for more about the technology behind the Haiti earthquake response; it is truly amazing what technology can do to help countries recover from natural disasters.

But this isn’t really about technology - it’s about outcomes. It’s about people. And we look forward to using this blog to share more national security success stories from this beautiful region.

Have a comment or opinion on this post or a question for the author? Let me know @MicrosoftPSNS or email us at safetyanddefense@microsoft.com.

Jorge López
Industry Manager, Public Safety and National Security, Microsoft Latin America

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About the Author

Jorge López | Industry Manager, Public Safety and National Security, Microsoft Latin America

Jorge is Microsoft’s senior executive, chief strategist and spokesperson for Public Safety and National Security markets and initiatives in Latin America. He is responsible for business strategy development and execution for several public sectors.