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Brigadier Alan Hill enabling frontline intelligence

Mark Chillingworth | Nov. 8, 2013
British Army deputy CIO Alan Hill talks about the transformational challenges of recruiting and leading a digital army that deploys information as a weapon on the battlefield

DII integrates multiple systems within a single infrastructure of networks and datacentres, and provides the military with a single point of supply and contact for all IT. It includes hosted applications built by the Army's own software house, such as a wounded, injured and sick management information system used to provide post-injury support monitoring and ensure the right level of care is provided to soldiers.

Life in the Army is very different to that of many careers in that it is very much a lifestyle, with the force providing housing and making great demands on its workforce. As a result Hill's back-office systems have to provide information and access that fit with the personal lives of soldiers as well as the operational systems that any organisation needs to operate daily.

The Defence Gateway, for example, is a two-factor secure system that enables the Army to operate ArmyNet, a source of information and services for personnel. The site receives 70,000 hits a month on individual salary statement pages.

Hill is proud of ArmyNet and the behaviour change it has encouraged as its members use it to book 'adventurous training', check their pay, and use the apps and e-book stores. "We need more online training available in barracks and are starting a wifi delivery project to support that across 70 sites," he says.

Hill's datacentres are at IL3 and IL5 security levels — the highest — and the organisation is very used to cyber-attacks. The business-focused CIO sees it as an opportunity for his organisation to offer secure cloud computing to the rest of the government as a shared service. He says other armed forces already use ArmyNet.

Soldier-proof technology
With an increased focus on information, the need to cut costs and retain a motivated and professional workforce, the Army needs to be as cost-effective and efficient as any CIO's watch.

"Where it makes sense we use commercial technology. We don't need bespoke laptops, but some of our technology needs to be soldier-proof if it is out in the field," he says of the need to have the right tools for the right job. Hill is always looking for ways of using commercially available products, but has an increased security concern should a device be lost.

"We are putting an information line of development into every change programme and business-as-usual process in the Army," he says of the wider implications of the change the force is undergoing.

Like any CIO, Hill has come across those who don't see a technology-led change programme as an enabler. He, though, is embracing the current wave of technology change in the public sector and says he's enthusiastic about the opportunities provided by G-Cloud (the government's cloud initiative) and looking to increase the number of SME vendors that supply the Army.

 

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