Scaling data capability to make information more interoperable and available is the priority of Caroline Bellamy, chief data officer and director of the Ministry of Defence.

FINN caught up with Bellamy at DSEI to talk about how data will “fuel” command control advantages and the measures the sector is taking to increase diversity.

She explained why data was an important priority of the Ministry of Defence. “Data enables information, it enables intelligence, it enables insight,” she explained. “It’s the fuel for exploitation that we want to drive advantage out of, be that military advantage, operational advantage, decision making advantage and Command Control advantage – it is the fuel by which we’re going to be able to do those things.”

Data: “a critical asset”

“So, crystal clear importance that we will curate that data, that we serve it well so that the people who need to exploit our data in whatever way they want to do that, be that in the commands, in the operational areas or in decision making, that that data is fit for purpose and understood. It is a critical asset for us.”

Bellamy spent 30 years outside the public and government sector. She said the challenge within the ministry was exactly the same as within the private sector, boosting efficiency of data usability to combat hostile threats.

She said: “What we’ve got to do is get better at scaling our capability, making our data more interoperable more easily, making our data available at the point of relevance and readiness whenever it needs to be so. In industry, we’ve had exactly the same challenges as organisations have grown and have expanded. They want to make decisions with all the information coordinated and collected for them to make those best decisions, actions or operations on or to do their analytics on. So the principles are very similar.”

Defence sector: “the leviathan of connected enterprise”

Bellamy talked of the “privilege” of working and learning about data during her career and the possibilities of its application within the wider defence sector. “What the defence sector offers clearly is not only the defence sector in UK, but partners, industries, allies, wider government, it’s sort of ‘the leviathan of connected enterprise.’ And what we’re seeking to do through Defence Digital and each of our functional initiatives and digital backbone and our common data capabilities, is really to drive that coherence, and that commonality, and that’s exactly the same message that we’re driving and have been driving in industry.”

One of the challenges faced by both the Ministry of Defence and wider industry is to attract more women into the data sector. Women in Defence announced the 30 by30 initiative at DSEI, an ambition to increase female representation across all levels of seniority to a minimum of 30 per cent by 2030. Bellamy said work was already underway on changing perceptions of data as a career opportunity and said creating a greater awareness of the opportunities and engagement would help showcase data as an exciting career.

Greater transparency will lead to greater diversity

Bellamy called for “more transparency” about the work achieved in data to position it as an exciting and wide ranging career. She explained: “Data is an entire career right through from capturing and curating data, the more traditionally known aspects of data, right through to its exploitation, data science, analytics, reporting, decision making, there are career opportunities in all of those areas.”

She also added that there were opportunities for those without military backgrounds to take up positions in the sector, just as she had done. “Whilst there is tremendous opportunity for military colleagues to come into those roles. There’s also tremendous opportunity for people to come into those roles from outside the sector. So it’s an appeal factor. We know in the marketplace that actually women in almost every sector of every role are not as represented as they need to be.”

“What’s tremendous through Women in Defence and the 30 by 30 initiative is a real targeted goal to correct that, to make it interesting and to offer those careers in an organisational construct that makes that doable, makes you feel welcomed, that we’re open and talk about the diversity of different ways of working.”

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