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The advent of the Internet and its related technologies has brought about a revolution not only in communications but also how data is collected, stored and shared.

Previously, data had to be maintained by hand.

It would then make its way into another large hand written book or ledger. Cross referencing was nearly impossible. It required multiple human resources and time.

Today, all it takes is a few keystrokes by one person on a computer.

While almost all institutions have become more efficient thanks to IT interventions, the police has perhaps been the main beneficiary.

“Work that used to take weeks, now takes minutes,” says senior police official Hussain Habib. “And thanks to these IT interventions, the police force can not only become more efficient, it also creates more accountability as well.”

Most of the IT interventions being introduced into the Punjab Police have been envisioned and built by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB).

“The conversation to empower the Police started after terrorists struck multiple police targets in Lahore,” says Burhan Rasool, General Manager IT at the PITB. “The idea was to come up with technological interventions that would help the policeman on the street.”

What followed were a series of conversations between the then DIG Operations Lahore Zulfiqar Hameed, the Chairman of the PITB Dr Umar Saif and Burhan Rasool.

The culmination of these conversations are a series of initiatives, processes and products that have been developed by PITB, and have been (or are being) implemented by the Punjab Police.

One of the key initiatives is the biometric citizens’ verification devices.

The handheld Biometric Device is being used for mainly three things: validating citizens’ by their Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) number and fingerprint; validating Afghans Citizens’ by their Proof of Registration (PoR) number and fingerprint; and identifying a suspect as a Habitual Criminal.

The device is hand-held and can be used anywhere in the country. It connects through a SIM and is being used at police checkpoints all over Punjab.

However, the limitation of the device is that it requires the use of both the CNIC and fingerprint of the suspect.

Read more: Lahore Police Launches Rescue 15 Mobile Application

People are validated by checking their records across multiple databases, including National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Afghan refugees, Criminal Record Management System (CRMS), Habitual Criminals Database, Black Book, Red Book and the Fourth Schedule list.

Previously, there was no protocol in place to validate a CNIC there and then if the subject had produced one. Now using this device, the user can validate the citizen by using his/her CNIC and fingerprint on the spot.

Most importantly, the device can be used to confirm the gender of a subject wearing a burka or covering, without disturbing any social protocols.

This was of vital importance in Pakistan where numerous suspects have been caught fleeing crime scenes disguised as women in full veil.

The biometric device can be used during police raids, processions and protests, where it is up to the police to ensure that law and order is maintained.

These devices are already functional across Punjab. To date, 652,606 requests have been received from around 962 devices.

Through the use of the handheld biometric device, the police have been able to discover several forged CNICs.

The device was used to validate the citizens during the last Zimbabwe cricket tour, the Orange Train property compensation project and the annual Tableehi Ijtema (religious gathering) at Raiwind.

In April 2016, this device was also used in the police and military operation against the Chotu Gang in the Kacha area of Rajanpur.

These devices are enabling quicker law enforcement and achieving new levels of efficiency in policing.

This project is part of a larger initiative by PITB and the Punjab Police to develop a more complete criminal profiling system for the province.

This piece first appeared on MIT Technology Review Pakistan and has been reproduced with permission.