Digital Intelligence: mobilising an ecosystem for national security
Client Forum 2022
Having recently unified its digital capabilities within new business Digital Intelligence, BAE Systems brought key individual components and themes together for discussion with customers at its latest annual Global Executive Client Forum.
To maintain advantage in the face of rapidly innovating adversaries, like-minded countries need to develop a combined approach to defence and security in the digital age. This is easier said than done. In each state, different cultures, objectives, digital maturities, threat climates, relationships between public and private sector and capacity levels all make it easier to develop national ecosystems than to manifest international synergies.
This is where ‘digital intelligence’ becomes such a pivotal concept, forming a culture around technology that can be the nucleus of an approach to defence and security that engages and connects partners across the world.
To build such an ecosystem needs all of society to move forward as one: developing technologies that improve the understanding and utility of data, establishing more common ground around ethics and responsibility in the digital domain, strengthened leveraging of the cloud and artificial intelligence, utilisation of space to inform more proactive responses and a more inclusive involvement of all segments of society including small businesses and academia.
‘Digital intelligence’ is ultimately a blending of innovation and influence for both cyber and physical application. By engaging society, businesses and academia alike to that innovation and influence, the UK can begin to project its vision for defence and responsible cyber power to the rest of the world.
- James Hatch, Chief Digital Officer, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence
‘Information overload’ has taken on additional meaning through the rise of big data. The pandemic shone a spotlight on this challenge, and indeed on the need for greater autonomy in the data filtering and analysis process. At the highest rung of public service, managing the pandemic became increasingly difficult as pertinent data was distributed across organisations and systems. Delayed interventions based on shallow and disconnected contexts was the outcome… that is, until automated technologies were brought into the equation.
The rapid consolidation and optimisation of data quickly reduced reporting times by 80-90% and enabled research for better, more informed outcomes from then on.
Across every organisation – large or small, private or public – similar, relative bottlenecks are being experienced as decision makers realise they only have surface level information to inform policy and strategy.
Being unable to identify and pre-empt risks, let alone build requisite strategy to rebuke those risks, is one of the overriding challenges being faced by all organisations at this time. Automation is vital in digging deeper into that data, unearthing those opportunities and risks earlier, and holding yourself accountable for strong resilience and foresight as part of the wider national ecosystem.
Artificial intelligence is no longer a new buzzword. Bolstered by the launch of the National AI strategy, the Defence AI strategy, and the ‘Ambitious, Safe, Responsible’ delivery methodology, acceptance of its role in national security has reached fruition.
However, while AI and machine learning aren’t necessarily new, there is still the risk for this strand of innovation to evolve faster than we can build frameworks for it. And that’s where ethics must play a part, maybe even beyond law and regulation.
In essence, ethics represent more than compliance – they epitomise the way a country wants to be perceived in the eyes of the rest of the world through the decisions made and the technologies used to help make those decisions.
Considering the effect of any AI solution across its full lifecycle, on the people involved – the abuse, misuse or disuse of AI-enabled solutions – must of course fall in line with principles laid out by the likes of national government, the MoD, or NATO. But, beyond that, they must also be combined with team- and industry-based principles that ensure a completely ethical ecosystem contributing intelligence and influence to the nation.
Secure government departments need to access digital benefits being achieved and presented in the commercial world. Cloud platforms underpin these benefits of fluidity, scalability and security. However, life in the cloud comes with constraints and limitations within classified sectors, which are often misunderstood.
The biggest barrier alludes to concern about what kinds of data can be put in the cloud, but there are a range of more operational issues beyond that fear, geared around legacy procurement. These – often long-term contracts – are typically difficult to unplug from, to veer towards more agile SaaS infrastructures instead. Additionally, there is an element of experimentation that comes with the level of agility afforded by the cloud, which again goes against the grain of traditional defence and security operations and contracts.
In addition to these more cultural barriers, the overwhelming concern around security also requires a mindset shift that acknowledges that data can now be more secure outside of an organisation’s own four walls. This recognition is seeping through now as commercial cloud’s security bar rises, and restrictive environments become more commonplace on commercial cloud platforms.
In 2019, NATO declared space as an operational domain, reflecting an acknowledgement that there was now enough of a threat assigned to that region. In essence, it is an ‘operational theatre’, much in the same way as other security domains, and one that requires national attention as epitomised by the subsequent formation of the UK Space Command.
As a way to enhance military operations, to deliver real-time data insight via satellite, and to offer bigger picture overviews of on-the-ground situations to end users; the UK is subsequently engaging with private players to develop technologies in space.
This strand of digital intelligence reflects the fact that the threat landscape has not only changed, but expanded beyond our immediate world – requiring elevated levels of collaboration to speed up procurement times, and to keep up with developments beyond our planet.
‘Cyber power’ as a term reflects the ability to protect and pursue national interests through cyberspace. This again relies on a whole-of-ecosystem approach which implicates government, private entities, academia and national citizens.
Essentially, how is a country harnessing its resources, its expertise, its digital acumen and its end decisions to establish best practice in cyberspace, and to project those positive practices to other nations?
Cyber power is ultimately a mix of familiar (offensive and defensive) power through cybersecurity and national defence strategies; alongside soft power in the form of capacity building, international tech standards, bilateral engagements, and a correlation between national objectives and private sector intent.
‘Responsible’ cyber power takes this concept one step further in ensuring that these same, collaborative missions are conducted via a series of ethical, law-abiding, positively-influencing actions. Again emphasising the role of ethics and morals in addition to legality and compliance, a responsible cyber power approach will ensure UK’s influence over global trends in cyberspace are precise, positive, calibrated and sustainable.
Building on that notion of cyber power, the role of all-of-society is once again brought to the fore. The importance of engaging with academia and private players has been well documented, but must be inclusive of all sizes of enterprises within that matrix.
By their nature, SMEs are likely to be more entrepreneurial, dynamic, fast to mobilise, and equally quick to innovate and adapt. However, traditionally, the connection between government and SMEs hasn’t been overly strong, due to clash of cultures, varying operational expectations, and differing exposures to critical situations.
What this final strand of digital intelligence seeks to reemphasise, is the importance of a completely connected national effort, however. At a time where scalability is such a concern to national security, and especially within cybersecurity, these smaller operators are invaluable to finding quick, novel, relevant, data-driven solutions. By seeking their involvement at national level, these more nimble components of the overall ecosystem can be channelled towards national interests from early development; with a view to long-term contributions.
The issues discussed by Digital Intelligence at its GECF event represents a broad spectrum of challenges and considerations faced by nation states in the current climate, and the technological input required to not only keep up; but to remain a projecting, influential force in an era of cyberspace.
Championing technologies in the form of AI and the cloud, as well as expertise from across the whole ecosystem is critical moving forward.
BAE Systems Digital Intelligence is proud to be one of those substantial contributors: not just through the development of products and services; but in facilitating conversations around the entire ecosystem, and why all strands are needed for the sake of the UK’s future security.
Find out more
Get in touch with one of our experts below, and stay up to date with the latest trends, topics and technologies in the market – subscribe to receive free insight from our experts.