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Using ST&I to effectively fight crime and boost security
  • Using ST&I to effectively fight crime and boost security

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01/06/15

Maina Waruru
In Nairobi, kenya

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[NAIROBI] Just how well science, technology and innovation (ST&I) can be used to effectively fight crime and boost national security is one of the things I realised at an important science meeting.
 
During the 4th Kenya National Science Week in Nairobi last month (11-15 May), experts noted at a session on ST&I and national security that surveillance cameras, digital mapping of crime zones using satellite technology and big data mapping could be crucial in preventing crime and fighting threats to national security.
 

I agree with the panellists that it boils down to commitments of African governments in funding ST&I and providing resources to enable experts come up with applications that could help boost security.

Maina Waruru

“When you maintain a good database on each citizen from birth, schooling, marriage and work; their physical address and contacts with entries capturing every case of breach of law, it makes it easy to not only trace criminals but also prevent crime,” said Gilbert Mungeni, data and information and communication technology officer at Communications Authority Of Kenya.
 
He added that cloud computing — services whereby information and files are kept on servers connected to the internet instead of a single computer and can be accessed by different people online — is another technology application that should be used to gather and analyse individual data to fight crime.
 
According to Nicholas Ozor, executive director of Kenya-based Africa Technology Policy Studies Network, data mining, which involves digging up and gathering all information known about citizens, is another way of taming crime as this could help authorities easily establish who is likely to commit or likely to have committed certain crimes.
 
While many applications in ST&I existed that could be used to tame crime, scientists, he warned, must at all times stay a step ahead of criminals, cyber criminals included, because they also have access to some of the technologies that scientists possess.
 
“The quest to use technology in fighting crime solely depends on who has superior power and the challenge is upon scientists to always make sure that criminals do not outsmart them,” Ozor said.
 
Participants also heard that the use of integrated identity management, where a database for identification documents including birth, passports and identity cards could be critical in supporting national security.
John Siror, director of ST&I at the National Economic and Social Council of Kenya, however, advised that adding an “intelligence layer” to all the data captured and stored in relation to security could be key.
 
For example, he added that in the case of closed-circuit television (CCTV) technologies, it would be helpful if anytime a criminal suspect appeared on images screened, an alert went off at the control room.
 
Ultimately, I agree with the panellists that it boils down to commitments of African governments in funding ST&I and providing resources to enable experts come up with applications that could help boost security.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.
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