Engineering: leader della Digital Transformation

Digital Defense, Aerospace & Homeland Security

Five questions to...
Fabio Barba

Our Defense, Space and Homeland Security Business Unit Technical Director talks about the challenges for 2021. And how new technologies allow the sector to be ever closer to civil society.

1.

COVID-19 MADE THE YEAR 2020 A REAL STRESS TEST FOR ALL SECTORS: WHAT WORKED AND DID NOT WORK IN THE DIGITAL DEFENCE SEGMENT?

The defence domain was capable to appropriately respond to the limitations imposed by the Covid-19 emergency. The need to ensure an appropriate level of operational readiness, independent of the whole context, has, over time, directed the defence to implement a technological infrastructure which has proven to be resilient and effective - also during the pandemic crisis.
The relationship with companies customarily working in the defence domain have not broken down: where strictly necessary, these have continued in-person, whilst in most cases they have been ensured remotely using the digital resources already in place.
To this day it remains impossible, at a distance, to face up to the issues concerning classified information: this not solely a technological problem, but also and above all a regulatory issue which will probably be remedied in the near future. This impossibility, in fact, made it necessary to postpone all classified activities deemed to be not strictly necessary from an operational point of view.
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2.

HOW HAVE ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES HELPED KEY PLAYERS IN THE SEGMENT TO ADDRESS THE CRITICAL ISSUES GENERATED BY THE PANDEMIC?

Enabling technologies have been decisive in alleviating the impact of the pandemic on business. Certainly, if this event had occurred ten or so years ago, the impact would have been far more devastating. Technologies, such as the cloud or collaboration systems, have also allowed continuity of operation in the Defence and Security segment.

A question which remains open is that of IT security (information and cybersecurity) which is becoming ever more central in a context in which business is becoming decisively reliant on the digital world.

3.

WHAT ARE THE 3 FUNDAMENTAL STEPS THAT THE SECTOR MUST CONFRONT TO ACHIEVE A NEW NORMAL THAT COMBINES INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY?

The defence domain already has an fundamental technological infrastructure. While there is, surely, room for improvement, this has already proven itself to be effective in dealing with the challenges of the moment. Adaptation of procedures and processes has proceeded in step with digitalisation of the sector, as is the case with staff training. This is the fruit of work which has been done in the recent past.
The issue now is to continue the work which has been underway up until now. If I had to suggest the three fundamental steps for fully achieving the "New Normal", I would point to the following actions:

  • Proceeding with work to implement a homogeneous, extended and sustainable information security programme, facilitating at the same time a comprehensive, up-to-date and aware digital training of the staff.
  • Innovating, reusing what is already widely used in the “digital universe” supporting the "civilian" society. Of all the issues, it is probably recourse to Artificial Intelligence, both in applications for managing administrative tasks, and also in purely operational systems, which represents an issue of primary importance in terms of capacity and optimisation of resources.
  • Facing up to and resolving the issue of full digitalisation of information, including classified information. If, in the first instance, the issue is to adapt existing systems, the digital treatment of classified information cannot be oblivious to a renewed technical/technological/regulative approach.
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4.

ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY, A GREEN APPROACH, ATTENTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIVERSITY: HOW IS FOCUSING ON THESE NEW VALUES TRANSFORMING COMPANY ASSETS IN THE SEGMENT?

The defence segment is not disconnected from the general context. For this reason, trends which will govern action in the coming years cannot fail to be felt in terms of demands which reflect the direction the "civilian" world is heading in.

Economic sustainability has, for some time, also been a decisive factor at companies where ICT systems support operational activities. Moreover, we are witnessing a general green approach focused on the issue of saving energy. In fact, attention to human rights and diversity are also issues which are strongly felt, with particular reference to management and staffing, but not only so. This is perhaps also true to a greater extent in other segments of public administration. Companies operating in the defence segment cannot be the exception to these trends.

For some time Engineering has specifically adopted these, and this is one of the reasons why it has been able to position itself on the market as a credible partner with whose support you can meet the challenges of the immediate future.

5.

HOW CAN OUR EXPERTISE IN NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND CORE PROCESSES HELP KEY PLAYERS IN THE SEGMENT, ALONG WITH US, DESIGN A SPACE WHERE TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS CAN INTERSECT?

For some time, the paradigm, whereby the defence segment guided the process of technological development in the interests of the "civilian" world, has been turned around, when it comes to issues essentially concerning the available budget and predisposition to change.

In this context Engineering is in a position to effectively support the defence world, combining a diffuse presence in all segments of civilian society with a deep-seated awareness of needs and processes in the military world.

Identifying the digital innovation issues, as we prepare for specific innovation in the defence segment, represents the challenge we will be engaged in for the immediate future.
Fabio Barba

Fabio Barba

Fabio has 26 years of work experience including 20 in the ICT domain. He was an Italian Navy Officer, graduated at the Italian Naval Academy in 1995. He completed his education with an Engineering MSc in Command & Control Systems at the US Marine Corps University – Quantico, Virginia in 2000.

He works for Engineering since 2001 and he is currently Defense, Space and Homeland Security Business Unit Technical Director. He is responsible for all the programs with the Italian Ministry of Defense, the Italian Ministry of Interiors, NATO, the European Council and several European Agencies. He collaborates in the definition of commercial strategies in the following sectors: defense, maritime, border control and national security.

Fabio is also one of the authors of the White Paper "Digital Defense, Aerospace & Homeland Security".

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