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Data sovereignty, keeping data within the physical borders of a particular country, is a common concern among large organizations. Nowhere is this idea more ingrained than within defense agencies. In such a high-stakes industry, there are good reasons to keep sensitive information on-premises. But an unintended side effect can be that effective military communications, particularly with partners and allies, are hampered by overly stringent security measures. Finding a balance between collaborating with allies and keeping highly confidential data siloed is crucial to shared situational awareness and effective partnerships.

Multinational coalitions and military alliances exchange large amounts of vital information every day, from top-secret, point-to-point formal communications to multi-agency collaboration on transporting troops and equipment. Cultivating more effective, modern communication starts with a good understanding of the enterprise-grade protection that can be achieved through cloud computing. In keeping with the demand for international collaboration, there is room for lower classifications of data to be stored in the cloud—one that still retains all the strict measures and controls of on-premises infrastructure. Of course, the need to keep highly sensitive data isolated is a constant, but the potential for a hybrid cloud to support efficient collaboration and data sovereignty is ready to be realized. Microsoft Azure Information Protection, for example, can suggest appropriate levels of classification for documents. Once a document is labeled, reading and editing privileges are easily controlled. Data, in this context, can take on a “just in time” approach, meaning the right people get the right information only when it’s necessary.

AI solutions can also help agencies communicate more securely and efficiently across language barriers. Take, for instance, the language requirements of large, multinational coalitions. They operate with multiple languages and employ interpreters fluent in a dizzying number of languages to lend their expertise in a variety of meetings, presentations, and visits each year. Language and translation services are just one area that has the potential to be streamlined through the use of Microsoft cloud computing tools, such as those included in Microsoft 365. AI-supported translation capabilities have the potential to reach into the field as well, with several languages already available for mobile disconnected devices. Making modern collaboration tools available in the field on mobile devices means that users no longer need to rely on unpredictable communications infrastructure in unfamiliar locations, and partners and allies can make use of the most up-to-the-minute information to make better tactical decisions.

As defense agencies address issues of data sovereignty in the digital era, information security is key to providing equal measures of confidentiality and availability and facilitating seamless collaboration with allies and partners. Data of a lower classification can be shared confidently and securely; the Microsoft cloud platform provides security controls that are often on par with, or even superior to, most on-premises datacenters. The goal is to gain the most insights possible from the data available and get those insights into the right hands. It’s a new era for modern, cloud-enabled technology for defense. Agencies that are willing to think outside the box about how they classify data stand to realize all the benefits of any business that moves from an on-premises environment to the cloud.

To learn more about the world of data and defense, listen to the Gov Pod episode: Operation AI: Defense Digs into Data via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. And, download the Digital transformation for defense and intelligence e-book today.