How Governments Can Use Web Intelligence for Insights

Posted: 16th May 2014
How Governments Can Use Web Intelligence for Insights

Editor’s Note

The following interview is with Simon Thacker and is from our Web Intelligence Perspectives Series. Simon is head of strategic early warning for the UK Cabinet Office.

What is it about web intelligence that is such an important opportunity to you?

The future of open source intelligence will be driven by the web. The volume of information available online is greater than anything governments can generate themselves. This presents new opportunities to build an understanding of what’s happening in the world without having to construct costly networks to collect information.

What drives interest in web intelligence in your community? What hole in your world does it fill?

For us the interest is being better at understanding what’s happening in the world. If you were to look at the past and how we previously tried to build that understanding, you would see many researchers looking at newspapers, newswires, and TV. With the rise of social media its become impossible to make this process systemic or deliver anything quickly. This is where web intelligence can really make a difference and enable one researcher to cover more sources and produce more structured assessments faster.

What does a critical insight from web intelligence look like?

A critical insight will add something which the major news channels don’t have. If I can read it on the BBC website than why do I need look for it in other places? Web intelligence can cover places that major news channels can’t or won’t. That is where we find the extra value.

What’s your vision of how web intelligence could be used?

For me web intelligence should become the go-to-point for collecting and analyzing open source data. It should make us smarter by enabling insights into global events and allow one person the capability to generate analysis which in the past would have taken 12.

Will web intelligence become a standard piece of tradecraft in your community? Will it “go viral”?

I think so, but I would add it will take time. I think I’ve seen enough to be convinced the technology has gotten to the point where it’s adding genuine value. The challenge will be getting the community to start using web intelligence more and become comfortable with what “techies” now find second nature.

Simon Thacker Simon Thacker works within the UK government leading the development of new technologies for geopolitical early warning. As a specialist in risk, he has developed a many structured quantitative and qualitative risk-assessment products and has worked with international organizations such as the UN and EU to develop similar products. Simon’s latest work is developing a new system for delivering better early warning advice or geopolitical risk in fragile states.