The Key to Efficient Public Sector Communications? Interoperability
Picture this: The largest football game in the United States. More than a million people attending related events over the course of a weekend. More than 10 law enforcement agencies are on hand to ensure the public’s safety, each with their own devices, running on their own communication systems: smartphones, two-way radios, laptops, desktops. A recipe for disaster? A Tower of Babel?
In this case we’re talking about a Super Bowl, but it’s the kind of challenge that government agencies face all over the world. The technology of state and provincial offices, law enforcement and federal agencies has grown organically over the decades. As a result, communicating across these different platforms routinely gets in the way of vital communications, collaboration and overall efficiency.
“You’re never going to get a whole bunch of government agencies at federal, state, local, county, across various disciplines to all choose the same platforms,” explains Niki Papazoglakis, Program Coordinator for Harris County Public Safety Technology in Houston. “But when it comes to large-scale operations, even daily operations and incident response, they need access to that information.”
The solution? Go over the top (OTT). Connect these disparate systems with a cloud-based application that delivers voice, text, images and video services over secure Internet connections through a versatile mobile app that makes interoperability a breeze.
Reduced costs. Since 2011, the federal government’s Cloud First Strategy has increased cloud use – including by state and local agencies – and created more efficiency in data management and government services.
Outsourcing infrastructure to cloud-based services saves money, allowing more to be spent on the agency’s or government’s mission. It also offers the opportunity to replace older, archaic systems with up-to-date solutions. And no matter which platform is being used, APIs can bridge the technology gap between diverse systems.
Serve the public more efficiently. What if citizens could call a single customer service phone number for information about taxes, real estate, codes and parking tickets, when their questions involved multiple offices?
AIPA SpA is a nation-wide Italian company that serves about 50 local public administration offices by supplying services such as tax collection, real estate management and other public services. Thanks to its cloud-based solution, AIPA can route calls from more than seven million citizens to the nearest agency with only one customer service number.
Improve public safety. Whether it’s responding to a disaster or protecting a football stadium, law enforcement needs to communicate efficiently. By pairing a cloud-based program with both cell phones and computers, law enforcement agencies at the Super Bowl were able to send voice, text and even images whenever and to whomever they were needed. Medical calls were expedited faster, children and missing people were found more quickly, and arrests were made more efficiently.
Provide interoperability. These days it seems everyone has their favorite app or web-based software. This can create a nightmare for IT. But with a cloud-based system, G Suite, Microsoft Office, Skype, instant messaging and different phone systems can all use APIs to communicate with each other.
A key component of cloud infrastructure is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), which delivers a variety of collaboration applications and services over a network—most often the Internet.
These are hosted services offered by third-party vendors. Because the infrastructure is in the cloud—and is the vendor’s responsibility—it offers cost savings, not to mention higher levels of flexibility and scalability, to the internal IT organization. Scarce resources don’t have to keep up with constant infrastructure changes. And even though data is being sent through an IP network, everything is securely stored in the cloud.
Whether your agency is big or small, using web-based services can save significant time and resources. Here are some things to consider before choosing a vendor.
On-site, cloud or hybrid solution? Make sure the system is flexible, offers mobility and is easy to use and manage. It should also complement, not disrupt, your
existing IT infrastructure.
Look for extensibility and scalability that enables you to integrate new and existing business applications. The system should streamline interoperability with third-party applications and work across all email servers, browsers and operating systems. Its APIs should need minimal coding to solve your needs.
Many mobile solutions are originally designed as desktop tools and applications, then simply ported over for mobile use. A mobile-first system is a native solution that better leverages mobile capabilities and provides secure data transmission.
Ready for the Future
Your system should be ready for technical advances driven by artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Even now, cloud‐based services like facial recognition, speaker recognition and real‐time speech transcription and translation are accessible via open APIs.