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MoD launches digital strategy

The Ministry of Defence aims to invest an additional £1.6bn in digital over the next 10 years, and plans to establish a federated ecosystem of digital innovators and developers to ensure continuous progress

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a 10-year digital strategy, focusing on creating a digital backbone and enabling the department to exploit data and innovation.

The strategy includes plans to establish a “digital foundry”, a federated ecosystem of digital innovators and developers, and includes a defence-specific artificial intelligence (AI) centre.

The foundry will be a partnership with government, industry and academia with the aim of creating a “unique digital exploitation capability for all of defence”.

The strategy aims to place a digital backbone at the heart of its approach, which will be the enabler for digital transformation. “Defence’s Digital Backbone will be an ecosystem –a combination of people, process, data and technology; it will enable friction-free access to our data, connecting sensors in one domain to platforms in other domains, via decision-makers at the relevant levels in real time,” the strategy said.

The backbone will focus on improving capabilities and services in three main areas, including hyperscale cloud.

“As a core building block, cloud technology will provide the foundation on which we build and deliver the future capability we require. It is not a thing in itself, but underpins and enables the advanced applications and services we need at speed so we can keep pace with, and succeed against, our adversaries,” the strategy said.

“It will enable and deliver on-demand services and applications that are easily accessible and rapidly scalable; in turn, this will enable users to access and process data rapidly and securely on the battlefield, as well as enabling users in the business space to run systems, such as finance software, on the move.”

Next-generation networks

It will also focus on next-generation networks, allowing seamless access to data and easier collaboration. “This will accelerate delivery and enable multi-domain integration through the re-use of standard design patterns across defence and with our closest allies,” the strategy said.

It added that the department’s existing IT core has grown organically over many years, however it is not yet “exploiting emerging technologies at pace and scale”.

“We have too often traded-out technology refresh and have not driven sufficient integration and commonality. Continuing down this path will prevent us from exploiting emerging technologies at the pace and scale required to deliver the defence purpose,” it said.

“We have a core digital programme but critical components are missing across people, process, data and technology. There are particular gaps in hyperscale cloud capabilities at all classifications.

We must ensure that digital enables defence to be integrated nationally, engaged internationally, with a more assertive and adaptable defence posture, and Information-led.”

To create a data-driven, connected digital system, the cyber security, and the skills needed to use them, the MoD is investing an additional £1.6bn into delivering its strategy. It will also continue to iterate its strategy every 18 months to ensure it is up to date.

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By 2025, the MoD aims to have created “a secure, singular, modern Digital Backbone is connecting sensors, effectors and deciders across military and business domains and with partners, driving integration and interoperability across domains and platforms”.

By 2030, the vision is to build data as a strategic asset and “persistently deliver transformative digital capabilities”.

“We need data-driven, inter-connected digital systems that can integrate easily and securely with our partners across government and our allies, and where ‘software defined capability’ gives us an asymmetric edge by sensing, recognising and responding to new opportunities and threats faster than our adversaries,” the strategy said. 

“This means connecting defence not just across sea, land and air, but also the emerging domains of space, cyber and clectromagnetic, as well as partners across government and allies over the horizon and across the world. It is not just about ‘doing things better’, it is also about ‘doing better things’.”

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