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Developing Nations Security Forces Embrace Mobility

Recent decades have witnessed an unprecedented increase in the use of technology in the field of policing. Current solutions include computerized information management and analysis systems, video and audio surveillance, DNA analysis and forensic technologies, biometric coding, and heat, light, motion and sound sensors among others.

The past 15 years have brought an unprecedented increase in access to telephone services in developing countries with overall growth being driven primarily by wireless technologies. Telecommunications services have had a particularly profound impact on the developing world with these new capabilities helping to significantly improve access to markets as well as reducing transaction costs. The wider use of information and communications technologies in government has also brought greater transparency and openness.

In some parts of the world the poorest populations are often the first to benefit from new technologies. Sometimes as a result the impact of mobile telephony is substantially higher in developing countries than in more developed ones. These technologies have helped to improve the health, knowledge and skills of millions of individuals around the world.

This is particularly true of Africa’s remarkable demographics. Over the long term the most transformative technology in sub-Saharan Africa has been the mobile phone, and the growth of this technology has revolutionized communications across the continent. Mobile phones have also become the single most transformative tool for development. This is largely due to the fact that in Africa, mobile phones also substitute for other types of services such as financial credit, payments, newspapers and entertainment.

It has been noted repeatedly that the issue is not what is on the phone or the computer, it is about the App and the information and processes it delivers. Even without any additional services, App-based approaches make an ideal tool to demonstrate the kind of support that Canadian policing can provide in a developing world context such as Africa. If any additional services are required, these can be brought on-stream at any point, and can also usually be tailored to the specific needs of the police agency. Additional or enterprise services also represent the kind of discrete and tangible ‘deliverable’ that donors often like to include in their justice sector reform initiatives.

By leveraging emerging mobile Apps which are being designed specifically for improving the efficiency of front line police, developing nations can advance capacity building initiatives at rates unprecedented in years past. Mobile technology will continue to be a significant part of that advancement.

Mark Reber is a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with 20 years professional experience in policing and security sector reform.

Prior to leaving the RCMP Mark was seconded to several policing oversight agencies, including five years as Chief of Staff to the Oversight Commissioner for Policing Reform in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and eighteen months as a Senior Inspector with the Garda Síochána Inspectorate in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. His subsequent professional efforts were focused on leading policing reform assessments in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central America, continuing to strengthen civilian oversight in Northern Ireland, providing expert advice on police complaints and internal discipline systems in Palestine, and providing anti-corruption capacity building in southern Africa.

Mark holds a Diploma in Management from the University of Ulster, a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Politics from the University of Toronto and in International Relations from Carleton University.