Government Panel – 27 October 2021

Following the success of a recent deep dive into the challenges the Royal Navy faces in an ever-changing digital landscape, in October 2021 the Government Panel successfully hosted a second event into how the various branches of HM Armed Forces are tackling the technological challenges of the battlefield of tomorrow. Describing the challenges and steps the British Army are taking to ensure the modern soldier is a “Digital Soldier” was Brigadier Marc Overton TD VR and former Army Officer Colonel Willem Buckley. Marc is currently chief advisor to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff and the Executive Committee of the Army for the digital transformation of the British Army (Project THEIA).  He is also Chief Solutions Officer for Sierra Wireless, an industry leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Enterprise Networking Solutions. Willem was a former Colonel in the Parachute Regiment, having served on the staff in multiple operational theatres at the highest levels, before continuing his career within Defence Consulting.

The meeting was opened by Geoff Sadler, Chair of the Government Panel, before passing on to Marc who proceeded to talk through the MOD’s Digital Strategy. Marc then went on to discuss Project THEIA and explained how THEIA was a series of multi-million pound Digital Transformation programmes commissioned by the British Army.  These aim to embrace the new technologies and approaches used to enhance operational effectiveness and improve the management of business. Marc outlined THEIA’s aims to:

  • change digital culture and behaviours, equipping our people with digital skills and promoting new digital ways of working;
  • integrate all information from command and control, intelligence, sensors, effectors and platforms across domains, partners and allies;
  • deliver better data and enable improved operational and corporate competitiveness, efficiency and effectiveness.

Marc then closed the segment with observations from his industry background and drew numerous parallels on how success in industry could be applied to the Army’s programmes.

Willem was then able to take the context of the digital soldier further and talked about the different challenges facing a modern soldier who is required to integrate into asymmetric warfare across multiples domains. He went on to discuss the specific challenges the Land domain presented, and how the technology was being integrated into the modern soldier in order to provide a battle-winning edge. Willem concluded his observations by delving into some of the factors that sat behind the need for change, including military culture and the effort needed to increase digital literacy at all levels of command moving forwards.

This spurred a number of thought-provoking questions from a large audience that were expertly answered by Willem, before Geoff closed out a highly successful and informative discussion.

Stay tuned to Government Panel updates for the final deep-dive into how the various branches of HM Armed Forces are embracing technology to be able to operate effectively in the 21st century.