I have the chance of contributing to an exciting project at the moment that involves cross-country cooperation and communication. The project is aiming to develop, test, validate, distribute and maintain software tools in the fields of cybercrime investigation and digital forensics. As one of the outputs of the projects these tools will then be provided free of charge to law enforcement agencies around the world. But the project is not the reason for this blog post; the real reason is an observation that I made during this project.
Exchanging ideas and experiences with other international colleagues it was interesting to see how the need for software tools performing certain tasks was very similar despite the fact that the participants were coming from different countries. However during the discussions I had with the other project partners we discovered that there exist several examples for specific, custom-made software that has the same purpose but was developed independently by different countries. That means that some countries invested manpower and in some cases high budgets to external companies although a solution for their problem already existed.
So I asked myself two questions: First: How this could happen? and Second. How can this be avoided in the future?
The answer to the first question is difficult because it is not possible to reconstruct the entire process of how the tool was developed. The most likely answer is that the countries that wasted their resources either did not know that another very similar tool already exists or that the existing tool did not meet their requirements exactly. The third possible answer could be that each country wanted to develop "their own" tool, giving them the freedom to customise the software whenever needed along with the copyrights and intellectual property rights. A last reason why one organization might have developed their own tool although an alternative has already been available might be that the other tools that existed were proprietary, license based and/or too expensive to buy. There are valid arguments in favor and against all of these circumstances but I wanted thought that there might be things that we can learn about all these solutions.
The lessons that might be learned - to answer the second question - is that it needs more projects encouraging international cooperation on tool development and distribution amongs non-profit law enforcement organizations. Why? Because with the right approach duplicate work can be minimized, tools can be provided free of charge and the source code of the tools can be made available and thus the tools become customizable for all law enforcement agencies. If the project is equipped with sufficient funding even multi-language support, tool manuals and training can be developed. This approach could really solve most of the circumstances that I just described. The downpoint of course is that such projects need funding so a larger investment is necessary but I think in total it can save a lot of resources of terms of law enforcement agencies personnel, budgets and time.
Any thoughts, comments, ideas?