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As governments continue on their journeys of digital transformation, their leadership needs to think about how they improve their interactions with citizens. At the same time, however, they need to focus on how their first responders and defense organizations not only maintain a level of transparency where appropriate but also make sure they spend their taxpayers’ money wisely.

The continuum of policing alongside judicial and corrections systems is changing. One big reason? Paper.

“That’s just simply inefficient,” says Kirk Arthur, director of Microsoft’s Global Public Safety and Justice business. “It’s largely a paper-based process where law enforcement responds to calls for service, takes notes, and transposes those into some form of a records-management solution.”

Kirk is one of many industry experts who appear on Season 2 of Gov Pod, the Microsoft podcast series I host that discusses governments’ digital transformations. This new season focuses on how public safety and defense organizations have begun to embrace transformative technologies like cloud computing, AI and machine learning.

These issues aren’t limited to just law enforcement. Many courts also struggle under the weight of the many reams of paper that accompany nearly every case.

“Paper in the system causes all sorts of issues,” says Simon Bradford, public safety and national security lead for Microsoft in the Middle East and Africa. “It is a very traditional system that hasn’t kept up with technology.”

But law enforcement, courts, and to some extent corrections facilities are beginning to see the fruits of their digital transformations. Especially in countries where austerity measures have forced cutbacks in policing. The deployment of technologies like AI and machine learning, according to Jennifer Nash, an enterprise sales manager for Microsoft in the UK, with a focus on public safety and national security, are having a positive effect on the bottom line, but also making the entire process more efficient.

“Being able to be more effective with less in the UK, and with the austerity that we’re facing, and the need to potentially reduce the amount of officers on the streets,” Nash says, “how do we enable them to show up in the best way in the right areas with the ability to have hugely rich, data-led decisions?”

These decisions can be putting the right officers in the right places at the right times based upon predictive intelligence. It can be more effective data sharing between jurisdictions so a repeat offender who’s well-known to one agency but anonymous to another appears on all of their radars. Or it can provide language services that enable citizens to have positive interactions with officers because they can communicate and help one another.

Where public safety is often about transparency, introducing the cloud to defense organizations is often more about protection and classification of data, as episode 3 and episode 4 of Gov Pod discuss.

“Militaries have really kind of two requirements on data, and data is the key to innovation to requirements,” says Jamie Wylly, Microsoft’s government industry vertical lead for defense and intelligence. “Number one, they’ve got data classifications, so they have levels of information to protect from unclassified all the way up to top secret and above that. The second thing that they have starts to put gates around data.”

When you’re talking about a military campaign where an opposing force would benefit from knowing a strategic position or plan of action, it’s critical to keep that highly classified data classified. So it’s crucial to have different cloud options, from the hyperscale cloud to what’s called the edge, which takes the computing power that makes AI and machine learning possible and extends it to an area where maneuver forces are operating—even without connectivity. That enables forces to make real-time decisions rather than have to wait hours, or even days, for decisions from the top brass.

At the same time, fighter jets now have the ability to constantly collect and analyze data to provide critical information about a situation on the ground.

“It is as much of a sensor as it is an aircraft,” Jamie says.

But the cloud is just as useful off of the field. For example, having sensors on vehicles that let operations staff know when a part is about to wear out reduces repair costs and backlogs, but also drastically reduces the likelihood of equipment failure in the heat of a campaign. That’s important not just for the equipment, but for the potential lives saved when equipment works as intended.

As militaries continue to adopt these technologies, it increases the safety of soldiers in the field, and can provide better insights from all of the collected data not for what’s happening today, but in the future.

“We’re going to get better decisions, better predictability, not just of outcomes but of the way things might go in the next exercise or operation,” Jamie says. “It’s very exciting.”

Listen to the podcast online, or choose a different player like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. For further insights, download the Gartner report Digital Government 2030: Predictive Government Anticipates Citizen Needs With Autonomous Services to learn ways to harness AI for more responsive government. You can also learn more about Microsoft’s perspective on Public Safety and Justice and Defense and Intelligence.