Responsible AI for defence: Providing NATO leaders a strong foundation in AI fundamentals

Nato AI masterclass

In collaboration with NATO organisations, Solita orchestrated an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Masterclass tailored for NATO’s senior leaders at the NCI Academy in Oeiras, Portugal. The course provided guidance on AI and its possibilities, helping senior leaders make informed and responsible decisions about using AI throughout the defence organisation and beyond.

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, strives to safeguard the freedom and security of all its 31 members by political and military means and collective defence.

To do this effectively, the Alliance needs to stay abreast of the evolving threat landscape. Today’s threats are often digital in nature, which means that it is important to foster an excellent understanding of emerging technologies and all the implications surrounding their use.

The rapid maturation of AI technologies — including autonomous systems, advanced analytics, and generative AI — is currently at the forefront of security conversations around the world. NATO is particularly invested in the topic, with a focus on responsible use of AI, a key part of their AI strategy.

To promote a better understanding of AI and its military implications, the NATO Science and Technology Organisation (STO), together with the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA), commissioned the strategic von Karman Horizon Scanning on Artificial Intelligence. Solita’s Head of Sustainable AI, Anna Metsäranta, was one of experts engaged in this initiative.

Giving senior Alliance leaders the AI know-how they need to lead sustainable adoption

The use of AI has risen in prominence and entered the mainstream. AI technologies of all kinds have become a mainstay of the day to day and are now an integral part of international security conversations.

For discussions to be as productive as possible, senior leaders at NATO need to be able to participate and engage in these conversations from an AI-savvy position. They need a strong understanding of AI technology — how it works, where it can be used, and the risks, impacts and other considerations around it.

To help with this, the NCI Agency’s Chief of Exploiting Data Science and AI, Michael Street, has arranged AI training for Alliance senior leaders. Having met Anna Metsäranta through the von Karman Horizon Scanning on AI and learned about Solita’s experience in training senior leaders on AI, Michael approached Solita to collaborate on planning and executing the NATO AI Masterclass.

With NATO’s needs in mind, Solita set out to tailor our existing AI Masterclass concept to fit the senior leadership team in NATO. Working in close collaboration with the NCI Agency Chief Technology Officer’s Data Science and AI team, the course was extended with modules delivered by NATO’s own experts to cover elements of NATO’s unique context.

Anna Metsäranta and Michael Street AI masterclass for NATO
Solita’s extensive experience in training senior leadership on AI and machine learning, combined with their experience in working with defence organisations, helped to shape the direction of NATO’s AI Masterclass.

Dr. Michael Street Chief, Exploiting Data Science and AI

There were a few key objectives for the NATO AI Masterclass

  • Develop a shared language for NATO senior leaders on the basic concepts of AI and Machine Learning, bringing everyone on the same page

  • Increase understanding of how AI can create value for the Alliance through practical use cases in the defence domain

  • Introduce practical and comprehensible tools and guidelines for responsible use of AI

  • Increase understanding of the critical role of leadership in supporting AI initiatives through to successful delivery

  • Bring together NATO’s strategy, vision, and current capabilities for identifying what is needed for a stronger future competence in utilising AI

The NATO AI Masterclass was an intensive two-day course, which included theory, insights from guest speakers, and practical exercises and workshops to apply theory to participants’ own contexts through relevant AI use cases.

Some of the topics covered included the data foundations of AI, barriers to successful adoption of AI, security threats related to the technology, and how leaders can put NATO’s principles of responsible use of AI into practice.

Initial results and ongoing partnership

The AI Masterclass was a success, with positive feedback from attendees on the immediate usefulness of the learnings in their day-to-day responsibilities.

Each participant left with a greater understanding of different AI technologies, along with a strong foundation in the opportunities and threats their uses pose. The hands-on nature of the workshops also gave the Alliance’s senior leaders insight into how AI could be applied practically in their own focus areas.

Overall, the course was deemed valuable to both people with prior technical expertise as well as participants who had had limited exposure to data and AI.

It was an amazing experience and opportunity to work with the team at Solita. They are inspiring professionals with deep understanding and knowledge of AI, and the entire Masterclass was interesting and comprehensible to everyone. Without the Solita team, this AI masterclass would not have made such an impact and impression on our leadership.

Ivana Ilic-Mestric Principal Data Scientist

With the success of the first AI Masterclass, NCI Agency immediately saw the value in expanding the Masterclass for other senior NATO colleagues.

The AI Masterclass training will be arranged again for another group of key leaders during 2023, to increase AI literacy further within Alliance senior leadership.

Nato AI masterclass group image
Working with industry leaders is part of the NCI Academy strategy to achieve its full potential and deliver the education and individual training the Alliance needs. As the Alliance works towards the NATO 2030 ambitions, being ready for the dramatic evolution of digital technologies and their impact on NATO is essential.

Dr. Garry Hargreaves Director of NCI Academy

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