Tag Archives: national security

national security data

Disrupting terrorism and crime

When people think about digital disruption they usually think of the peer-to-peer accommodation network AirBnB, or the inexpensive ride-sharing app Uber. These businesses have redefined their respective markets – with big data analytics1 underpinning their success.

Despite the fear that disruptive tech will bring with it new threats to security, Australia’s national security has much to benefit from the type of disruption brought about by big data – particularly when it comes to fighting terrorism and crime.

The national security sector faces the most imminent and complex big data challenges. This is because a powerful weapon of today’s terrorist or criminal is their ability to hide in data. They can plan and coordinate an attack or crime with impunity.

The ability for criminals to “hide in data” means that national security agencies are often faced with the daunting task of finding the “needle in the haystack” – where the haystack is growing at a phenomenal rate. In fact, people often comment that national security data analysts are “drowning in data, but starving for information”.

Big data analysts often need to find connections in vast, disparate volumes of data, where connections are imperceptible to humans but can be discovered using smart analytics and machine enablement.

The challenge is made greater by the wide variety of data sources (e.g. texts, voices, images, videos), the ever-increasing size and scale of the data collected, and the organisational and legislative silos impacting data agencies.

The effect of big data means that national security data analysts often spend most of their time collecting data, formatting it for analysis and generating reports, and less of their time doing the analysis. This is referred to as the “bathtub curve”.

The application of big data analytics is aimed at “inverting the bathtub”, which means automating the collection and processing of data to form intelligence. The generation of intelligence reports can also be automated via digital technologies, which enables analysts to spend more time analysing intelligence and making decisions.

The D2D CRC is developing applications to maximise the benefits that Australia’s national security sector can extract from Big Data. They are helping agencies generate timely and accurate intelligence as a powerful weapon against national security threats.

By addressing their big data challenges and applying high-performance analytics, the D2D CRC hopes it can support agencies in predicting threats rather than reacting to catastrophic aftermath. 

Sanjay Mazumdar

CEO, Data to Decisions CRC

Read next: Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples, reveals the major flaw in traditional government approaches to disruption. 

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1 Big data is a term for any collection of data sets so large and complex they becomes difficult to store, process and analyse using current technologies. Big data analytics is the process of examining these data sets to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, trends and other useful business information. 

national security

National security relies on STEM

For Australia to be a prosperous, healthy and sustainable country it must be safe and secure. We expect our defence forces and national security agencies to be at the leading edge in their capabilities. Increasingly, this edge is underpinned by science and technology, which requires recruiting and developing our country’s most gifted scientists and engineers.

These talented professionals do not emerge by accident. They must be encouraged in our schools and tertiary institutions and then nurtured and supported through dedicated programs to achieve fulfilling careers. Australian institutions, including the Department of Defence, must be deeply committed to developing a future workforce with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


“In this age of digital disruption, the most secure countries will rely on platforms that are powered by STEM knowledge.”


STEM skills will underpin effective national security as Australia acquires sophisticated, multi-billion dollar platforms, including Future Submarine, Future Frigate, Joint Strike Fighter, Air Warfare Destroyer, Unmanned Aircraft and Cyber capabilities. All of these platforms will require STEM support during acquisition and throughout their service life.

Australia’s defence and national security sectors need to stay ahead of the technology curve to both create and prevent strategic surprise. Autonomous systems, cyber technology, electronic warfare, quantum computing and space exploitation are potentially game-changing technologies. In this age of digital disruption, the most secure countries will rely on platforms that are powered by STEM knowledge.

It is vital that our nation builds a ’talent pipeline’ to ensure a steady flow of highly trained scientists, technologists and engineers who can develop innovative solutions for future national security challenges.

A model for fostering talent in STEM 

The Department of Defence is actively engaged in a wide variety of STEM-focused initiatives, ranging from a ‘Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools’ program through to undergraduate and PhD scholarships.

We support further education by offering our employees generous study leave, and encourage diversity in STEM through scholarships and cadetships dedicated to women and Indigenous Australians.

We also encourage undergraduate university students to undertake summer vacation work and other paid work placements with Defence, both short-term and long-term.

In 2015–16, Defence provided over 100 STEM scholarships, cadetships and work placements. A number of sponsored students went on to win awards such as the South Australian Early Career STEM Professional Award (Mark McKenzie, 2013 and Tristan Goss, 2015), the South Australian Apprentice of the Year  (Dale Goldfinch, 2012), the inaugural Aerospace Australia Defence Innovation Scholarship (Luke Vandewater, 2012) and Materials Australia’s Ray Reynoldson Award for research (Genevieve Hart, 2013).

These success stories are testament to the promising rewards reaped by investing in Australia’s future STEM workforce.

Dr Alex Zelinsky

Chief Defence Scientist and Head of the Defence Science and Technology Group

Read next: Vish Nandlall, Chief Technology Officer of Telstra on To code or not to code?

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