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IDF to arm rookies with new weapon: data analytic skills

Seeking to become data-driven, army will launch in April its first 3-month course for recruits who will be trained to help commanders make better, faster decisions

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

In a bid to allow its commanders on the field make better and faster decisions, the IDF will train rookies with data analytic skills (IDF spokesperson unit)
In a bid to allow its commanders on the field make better and faster decisions, the IDF will train rookies with data analytic skills (IDF spokesperson unit)

In a bid to allow its commanders in the field make better and faster decisions based on real-time information from a variety of sources, the Israeli army will be teaching, for the first time, data analytic skills to new recruits.

The new program is part of a multi-year initiative by the Israeli army to become more data-driven, Lt. Col. Nurit Cohen-Inger, the chief data officer at the IDF’s Computer Service Directorate (C4i), said in a phone interview. Cohen-Inger has headed the initiative for the past year and a half.

The army, like every business or organization, collects data. The role of the data analyst is to take the figures and make sense of them to allow for better decisions going forward. Data analysts thus translate numbers into clear and useful insights.

“The IDF has a large amount of information, and we have been dealing with big data for a number of years,” she said. Making the IDF data-driven means that every decision should be based as much as possible on insights gleaned from the data.

Lt. Col. Nurit Cohen-Ingar, the chief data officer at the IDF’s Computer Service Directorate (C4i) (IDF spokesperson unit)

“The idea is to provide information to the commanders to enable them to make better and faster and more efficient” decisions, she said.

For the army to benefit from data analytics, she said, a team of people must be trained to enable them to do this work.

In April the IDF will begin its first three-month course to train soldiers to be data analysts. They will be part of the commanders’ back office, learning what problems need solving and communicating closely with them to help them make “quality and data-based decisions,” Cohen-Inger said.

The IDF has already enrolled the first recruits for the program. They will be trained to use technical tools to find data and identify trends from the huge amount of data the IDF collects, she said. “You need a very strong background in math and analytical abilities. This is what we are looking for: the ability to look at a process and break it down into algorithms and process the data.

“But we are also training them with soft skills, like how to work with people, to understand the needs of people,” she said. The soldiers will learn how to explain their findings concisely to even the highest-ranking officers, she said.

“We teach them how to be a data storyteller,” Cohen-Inger said.

All global armies have identified data and artificial intelligence as strategic assets, she said.

“One could see it as data becoming a weapon,” she said. Dozens of trained soldiers will be able to use this skill, first for the army and then back in the civilian world’s high-tech ecosystem.

“The profession is very attractive for the civilian world,” she said. “We will train people and they will get excellent experience.”

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