The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) has run its first hackathon, with 10 mixed teams from across the Air Force, Army, Civil Service, Navy, and Reserve given 48 hours to design a digital solution to an MOD-wide challenge.
The hackathon included user research, developing the user interface, and designing the application that would enable it to work effectively. The project was one of a smorgasbord of new initiatives springing up across the sprawling defence estate that are designed to speed up the creation and adoption of robust digital capabilities.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said of the hackathon: “We’ve had a taste of the journey we are all taking on the use of cutting-edge technology, and the challenges we face in turning this technology into usable solutions to operational problems. Both applications that made it to the final had undoubted utility…”
Other recent digital initiatives of note across MOD include the Defence DevSecOps Service (D2S), which launched in August 2022. At its heart DS2 aims to provide developers across MOD and beyond with a common DevSecOps platform to build and deploy modern software applications across security classifications.
The platform is based on RedHat OpenShift. MOD says it "provides industry best practice capabilities with the inclusion of a CI/CD pipeline to make the end-to-end software lifecycle easier and more accessible."
As service owner Hayley Patterson put it on the service’s launch: “Historically, software in Defence has taken a long time to build and deploy and can become bloated as we try to anticipate and meet uncertain needs for the future. This software becomes hard for users to understand, challenging to maintain and too rigid to adapt."
DS2 launched in August with seven DevSecOps teams under a private beta and aims to expand that rapidly. (Early adopters included MOD partner Improbable Defence, which said it had been able to deploy and demonstrate a complex synthetic environment application provided by its platform Skyral running on D2S.)
The hackathon meanwhile ran as the MOD continues to work to identify talent to lead the digital transformation of defence. In 2017 it launched jHub, an innovation centre for Strategic Command and the innovation lab is currently looking for “high-quality military talent” under a series of 24-month fellowships.