LET’S start with a quick quiz. Which country uses fax machines more than any other?

It’s Germany.

Now if I said any other country, Italy, Spain, somewhere in South America, then people would instantly describe the retention of fax machines as some sort of quaint Luddite tradition.

When the answer is Germany, such conclusions are more difficult to draw.

We can speculate why fax machines are still popular in Germany: their industrial economy is based on small family firms, communication between such enterprises does not necessarily need the internet.

What is clearly emerging is that fax machines are extraordinarily secure.

Russian and Chinese hackers find it impossible to hack through a modem.

The Northern Echo:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely credited with the invention of the World Wide Web, wanted it to remain democratic. That democracy has come to pass, or is it anarchy? Maybe a bit of both. What’s becoming clearer is Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s philanthropy and altruism has been usurped by Zuckerberg, Bezos and Dell’s individual and collective gargantuan appetite for power and cash.

Policing is slowly catching up to this IT revolution. Not only do we have to use computers, but we’ve also got to become more adept at investigating how other people use them. I have always felt a bit of an outlier when speaking to my colleagues because, unusually in Durham, we write all our own software. We’ve come to see the wisdom of this approach because controlling one’s own software means one controls all organisational processes. Some other forces in the UK are effectively in thrall to multinational conglomerates who do not see the development of police software as a priority.

The Victoria Derbyshire programme recently ran an expose where frontline staff in some South Eastern forces were most dissatisfied with the software provided to them. Compare that to Durham and Cumbria, where our two forces are in partnership to develop our own software. The design is done by practitioners in both forces: the coding of the software is done in Durham; the testing of the software is done in Cumbria. The latest two big releases of new software in Cumbria resulted in complete satisfaction by end users. One or two minor faults were spotted and they were all fixed within the day, easily achieved because the people who wrote the software are employed by us. I am often challenged by colleagues because they see this as being unprofessional or a cottage industry or they say that we should be concentrating on policing and not writing computer programmes.

I REMEMBER when I first arrived in Durham in 2008, communications room staff took 15 minutes before they came on duty to log in to 16 separate computer systems. All requiring different passwords. It took us a couple of months to create a single log on, but that one change garnered me a lot of “Brownie points” as a leader who listened. Leaders of organisations should not under estimate how irritating staff find clunky or overly-bureaucratic computer processes. The reason why Facebook, Twitter, Trip Advisor and many other software systems thrive is because they are intuitive, easy to use and involve very few clicks to get to where you want to be. Those are precisely the principles we use when we write our own software. Computers are ubiquitous. Many of you will be reading this article on your device. Any programme which requires an employee to make more clicks, tick more boxes or fill in more fields than is necessary irritates them every time they perform that superfluous task. Many hundreds or even thousands of times a day. No boss in their right mind would want to irritate their staff once, let alone a hundred times.

If organisations don’t fall into the trap of irritating their people, those same people will reward us with the demonstration of their genius. Durham Constabulary’s recruitment film (www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTuVLPPvCMQ) has gone viral. It features exclusively police body worn camera footage of real live incidents across the county, created by one of our young new recruits who is a whiz-kid when it comes to IT. The purpose of the video was for it to be shown at recruitment events to ensure that people who are thinking of joining the police had a realistic understanding of the range of jobs they will be expected to deal with. A handful of recruits have left recently because they underestimated the violence and antagonism we face daily. I know other forces have spent a lot of money on media companies producing glossy work.

I would urge all leaders regionally to spend some time understanding more fully the skills they already have in their organisation prior to tendering for specialist services which may cost a lot more and deliver a lot less.