We live in a post-digital world where 52 percent of consumers said, pre-COVID-19, that technology is ingrained into their daily lives. The pandemic is likely to increase that percentage. How does this affect a warfighter’s reality? Globally, consumers spend an average of 6.4 hours a day online. How do the technologies involved in that reality potentially manifest in the barracks, or on the battlefield?

Given security concerns, one can’t simply assume that the defence industry will adopt technology in the same way, or at the same pace, as the consumer market. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore the need to redefine the ways we work and interact with technology in defence, as in civilian life. Soldiers expect the conveniences of civilian life to be available to them on the battlefield—even if they’re adapted for operational and security purposes.

Outdated technology tactics
In defence, we have noticed a tech-clash, rather than the tech-lash (consumer pushback against the latest technology), where defence forces allow (often appropriate) caution to unduly slow their use of potentially game-changing technology. This is despite underlying enthusiasm for technology among their members. There is a collision with old models, incongruous with current expectations.

For example, healthcare has some potential lessons for defence. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2020 encourages the reader to “imagine a world [where] …wearables give doctors instant access to patients’ real-time and past vital signs. Digital healthcare records automatically incorporate results and notes from different providers, with no delayed requests for records or decisions made on incomplete information. All the while, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered machines use these records to make preventative recommendations.” These innovations could be applied to defence, where traditionally closed ecosystems sometimes lead to disjointed user experiences. Some border agencies are moving to cloud technology, but many artificial intelligence solutions are still applied to decision-making without transparency, leaving people out of the loop on decisions that directly affect their lives. Concerns about security, privacy and ethical issues have traditionally kept leaders wary of companies’ evolving digital technology innovations.

Time for defence to reclaim its innovative history
The defence industry has a proud history of innovation. ARPANET, the Internet’s precursor, was military technology, after all. Today, defence tends to follow consumer technology development. Defence organisations, like businesses, need new operating models to overcome the tech-clash. The transformation must go a step further, however. People don’t just want more technology; they want technology that is more human, reliable and fit for purpose.

Where are the most significant opportunities for defence organisations to modernise their approaches? What are the most significant areas of concern or opportunity? What does the term “post-digital” mean for defence organisations, when so many enterprises are not yet fully digital? In my next blog, I’ll explore the five Technology Vision 2020 trends that exemplify the potential transformation, and how we see them working in defence.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, I’d be happy to engage with you. Please reach out.

Matthew Gollings

Global Defence Lead

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