Data Without Borders

September 15, 2008
by Henry S. Kenyon

Modern Europe depends on information sharing among governments, businesses and individuals. Restructured from the ruins of World War II, institutions such as the European Union and NATO are built on a solid platform of communications between governments and militaries. Information sharing is even more critical in a computerized and networked world. However, while the Internet opens new opportunities and allows vast amounts of information to be passed among organizations, it also creates a host of new challenges.

The benefits and pitfalls of information sharing will be examined at AFCEA’s TechNet Europe 2008 conference and symposium to be held October 15-17 in Prague, Czech Republic. Titled “Distance Defeated—Remoteness Ignored,” the event explores the theory and practice of multinational information exchange. The conference also examines new technologies in the commercial sector that can aid warfighters.

The idea behind this year’s TechNet Europe began with a simple query on Google, explains Cdre. Robert Howell, RN (Ret.), AFCEA Europe’s general manager. He notes that a search for “information sharing” returned more than 47,000 entries. Cdre. Howell says he was struck by the range of government agencies, authorities and individuals who view information sharing as essential to their businesses.

In a European context, information sharing is central to AFCEA’s mission. Howell notes that AFCEA has 33 chapters in 22 nations conversing in 19 languages. “That is just a small microcosm of information sharing. Trying to explain AFCEA issues—which may be very straightforward when written in America for Americans—doesn’t necessarily share easily within Europe. We have our own cultures, requirements and backgrounds, which means that wherever you are transferring information, some level of translation needs to go on,” he says.

For TechNet Europe, this international perspective is reinforced with speakers from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and NATO. Howell explains that the event’s pan-European speakers will provide a range of perspectives, from government/military views to academia and industry viewpoints.

The event also will feature a session on the newly established U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) that will focus on the organization’s requirements for information sharing and how they are going to be applied in operations. Cdre. Howell believes this panel will open new vistas for information-sharing requirements and technologies.

TechNet Europe also will host a panel examining the uses and roles of commercial technologies for information sharing in government and military systems. Howell shares that the panel will consist of a retired general and three industry executives discussing how commercial technologies can fit into military requirements. In some specific military applications, the complete range of information sharing options must be carefully considered, he explains.

A NATO event will run concurrently with TechNet Europe. The 7th NATO CIS Symposium will be held on October 15. Titled “Coalition Information Sharing Challenges Within a Network-Enabled Environment,” the gathering will cover a range of topics falling under the category of multinational information sharing, such as computer information system interoperability and semantic interoperability across the NATO network enterprise. The symposium also examines NATO’s network-enabled capability (NEC) and will look at how the Czech Republic’s air force has launched a capability to support a national NEC strategy.

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