Kathy Gibson reports from Huawei Safe Cities Summit in Nairobi – The nature of threats is changing, not least the issues that citizens will soon face within their cities.
Khoo Boon Hui, former president of Interpol, and retired commissioner of the Singapore Police Force
On the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, ICT has given the world much that we take for granted, Hui says. Among the trends is increasing intelligence of machines, and their ability to perform specific tasks better than people.
“There are now technology disrupters everywhere,” he says. There are more connected devices, a proliferation of unmanned systems, and much more intelligence in software-controlled systems.
Meanwhile, numerous challenges associated with urbanisation are also being experienced.
Smart cities promise to alleviate many of these challenges, Hui says – but not all of the initiatives deliver on their promise – mostly because they are based on technology rather than on actual need.
Safe city initiatives, on the other hand, are generally associated with incident detection and response, including aspects such as public safety, digital security, health security, infrastructure security and personal safety.
However, the threat landscape is also multi-faceted, multi-tiered and multi-targeted, Hui says. It includes not only crime, but terrorism and natural disasters as well. And the Internet of Things (IoT) adds a whole new layer to the problem.
“And the bad news is that the bad guys are using technology too,” Hui points out. In fact, technology can play a central role in terrorism and even public disorder.
“There are links between organised crime groups and terrorism,” he adds. “And this has happened largely because it’s easier in cyberspace.
“The Internet is particularly attractive to criminals and organised crime groups, and there is trade in all kinds of malware through the dark net.”
Other threats to running a safe city include things like accidents that could be the result of poor regulatory control, bad law enforcement, a lack of cross-agency co-ordination; or even the impacts of natural disasters
Hui points out that these are all worsened by internal challenges like organisation siloes, lack of information sharing, difficulty in collating and analysing big data, high volumes of data and poor information from various sources.
So what can cities do? Hui thinks the first thing is to understand the problem. “Recognise that complex problems require complex solutions,” he says. “Identify the stakeholder and how to involve them meaningfully – especially within the community.”
Collaborative public safety is about preventing crimes, reducing loss of life and property, and minimising disruption to normal life, Hui says. “It is about preventing current and emerging threats; and dealing with the aftermath of inevitable crises so the city can return to normality.”
Governments should look at legislation to enable data sharing; and must strike a balance between protection of private data and security.
Collaboration needs to take place between organisations, Hui adds. This involved international co-operation, public-private partnerships, and new and innovative partnerships. “They should work together to build capacity; sharing best practices and investing in resilient networks.”