Met risks rolling out 30,000 mobile ‘paperweights’, says London Assembly

Mobile devices rolled out at the Metropolitan Police could be useless without a strong business case, says a London Assembly committee

Thirty thousand mobile devices rolled out at the Metropolitan Police Service could become "paperweights" unless a strong business case is made for the technology, the London Assembly’s committee review into the Met’s technology budget has heard.

Computer Weekly revealed Met police plans to equip officers with 30,000 mobile devices last month, ahead of the organisation's Crime Plan publication in April. 

Most of the mobile technology that police use – such as PDAs and mobile data terminals in cars – has become too clunky, said Met assistant commissioner Mark Rowley.

Chief constable Simon Parr, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “You have to have the business process worked out, what do you have to do. It has to be right device, or it won’t work which is what happened with the last roll-out.

“Otherwise they will end up as paperweights.

“If you wish to digitise policing and use smart technology, you need to enable technology to answer questions as you work.”

Parr said it will take time for officers to use them, but the issue will come down to supervision and management to ensure the cost savings are made from the technology.

Tom Jackson from Loughborough University, who has studied the use of mobile technology at Leicestershire Police, said he was horrified by the small size of devices for filling out crime reports. 

“They are good for short messages but crime reports take a huge amount of time and data quality might suffer,” said Jackson.

“Where is the business case from 30,000 devices, where are the savings going to be?”

The Met will see its IT budget reduced by one-third over two years, with a reduction of £42m in 2014/15, followed by an additional £60m in 2015/16.

But the London Assembly committee added that the Met risked missing significant savings by having deferred spending on cloud projects.

Parr said: “Historically we spend too much on systems replicating data, we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking the Met is unique in the way it does business, five of its systems are unique to the Met – which makes it doubly different and doubly attractive to anyone who wants to charge us.

“We, more than any other business, rely on information, and our ability to gather and layer it to make an informed decision based on risk is something we have not been very good at.

“Whenever we do something different and buy something new, we are not only layering complexity but wasting money buying a new capability when we already have the one we need.

“If we spent what we are already spending accurately, we could use it to leverage savings elsewhere in our budget. That is one of the challenges of looking at an IT budget and saying I am going to cut it. It’s not in itself a department, but an enabler and potential creator of savings elsewhere.”






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