Kenyan Police Service teams up with Safaricom to deploy crime-fighting technology

Looks to emulate NYPD, London Metro Police deployments

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The Kenya Police Service has partnered with Safaricom, East Africa's largest mobile services provider, to help it deploy security technology similar to installations at the New York Police Department and the London Metro Police.

Under the terms of the agreement, Safaricom says it will spend $100 million in the next six months to deploy key infrastructure including 80 base stations and 1,800 IP cameras with facial and car number plate recognition functions. Special communication radios will contain mobile phone, video, and photo features as well as the ability to communicate in groups. The system will be linked with other government systems, which are largely analog.

"Safaricom has committed to spend its money and deploy 60 base stations in Nairobi and 20 in Mombasa and 1800 cameras; the government will only pay us for the service once it is tested and it works," said Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO.

The communications modernization project has been part of policy papers and the national budget since 1997 but it's been widely acknowledged that corruption and failed deals involving shadowy international companies has meant that police communication gadgets are stuck in the 1980s.

In the last three years, the Police Service has been under pressure to restore public credibility, after appearing to be steps behind in cases of terrorist activities. The police command center has also had problems with radio interference when communicating with officers on the ground.

The project was awarded through a closed tendering system, where government representatives approached suppliers and sought partnership. The failure to open the bidding through public advertisements has been criticized, with some politicians calling for close scrutiny of the contract.

"The government approached several suppliers, both local and international, and some of them had ridiculous terms; some insisting that 90 percent of the amount must be paid before the equipment is deployed and tested," said Joseph ole Lenku, secretary of Internal Security and Coordination of National Government.

The service will run on LTE on the 450MHz band, which is provided by the ITU for police communications. It is not expected interfere with other channels that Safaricom will be running.

For security, Safaricom says the system will have four layers of encryption and will be expected to provide officers with analytics and decision-making capabilities, given that it will be linked with an analytics system set up by IBM at police headquarters.

Apart from delaying its payment until project completion, Safaricom has provided support and maintenance and a service level agreement of 99.9 percent uptime as well as for an initial group of 250 officers. These officers will be expected to train 7,500 others and by the end of the project, the number of trained police officers is expected to reach as many as 50,000.

After testing and commissioning, the government will spend $20 million annually for the next four years, then it would be renegotiated depending on scale and lessons learned.

The London Metro police, which Kenya is aiming at emulating, spends about $400 million of its budget on ICT related services, It is already using predictive policing techniques and is testing wearable cameras within the police force.

The NYPD is reported to be piloting Google glass for crime fighting and has rolled out data apps on tablets that police patrol cars use to access vital information.

The Kenyan project is still miles behind the NYPD and London Met, but the police hope that the technology gains will help public trust in their ability to fight crime.

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