Wrong Number: When Technology Fails Police and Communities: Lessons from Somaliland

It is often assumed that the application of ICT can help to improve communications between police and local communities in fragile societies, thereby deterring crime and lessening distrust. But can the use of information and communications technology (ICT) such as mobile telephones make a difference to police-community engagement? Can it deter crime and improve police response rates in fragile societies where most people have access to mobiles? What do local people expect of their police? In fact, as the record of a text alert system in Hargeisa emphasises, police-community engagement reflects local cultural preferences and these may counteract the availability of globalised technology. Hargeisa’s experiment offers insights into the everyday choices shaping low-level policing. It reflects local expectations and how they are, rather than should be, fulfilled. It emphasises that rather than being a solution to poor policing, ICT may distract from the need for communities to take the initiative in engaging with police.

Based on fieldwork in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, this policy brief by Prof. Alice Hills of Durham University shows how local preferences can undermine the availability of globalised technologies. Download the policy brief here.

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