2017 predictions: Cybersecurity will take centre stage

So far this week, Microsoft’s leaders in the UK have looked at artificial intelligence, the cloud, games and apps. Today, we turn our attention to cybersecurity and education. Stuart Aston, UK National Security Officer at Microsoft, comments on how we keep our data secure as more of us surround ourselves with internet-connected devices. Meanwhile, Ian Fordham, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, predicts this year will see a growth in digital skills.

Cybercrime and cybersecurity take a global stage

Stuart Aston, UK National Security Officer

Cybercrime has reached a tipping point (back in 2015, actually), representing more than half of all reported UK crime, and it costs the average UK business over £4 million every year. But that constant steady (albeit exponential) rise in volume, variations and severity of attacks isn’t the main driver of awareness for executives. The current spotlight on state-sponsored attacks threatening global economic and political stability will bring much more attention to the issue: from cybercriminals seeking to exploit this opportunity, to solution providers focused on prevention, to the public sector and commercial organisations increasingly at risk from attack.

If you look at the how some of the government’s £1.9 billion investment in the National Cybersecurity Strategy is being spent: drone-hacking boot camps and a training college for cybersecurity at the famed codebreaking site Bletchley Park, you can start to get a sense of the breadth of threat mitigation governments and businesses have to consider.

We will continue to have more connected things (phones, drones, home appliances, toys, etc) creating exponentially more data and more exploitable nodes. As such, solution providers will invest heavily in artificial intelligence to keep this data secure. This means looking at everything from the devices we use (for example, advanced facial recognition and other biometrics) to international networks using machine learning to detect threat patterns using huge data sets.

In 2017, much of this advanced cybersecurity functionality will fade into the background: an assumed part of the services consumers and businesses, but – given the global impact of cybercrime last year – it will also provide organisations the opportunity to renew their interest in staying current (the curve keeps moving too fast to stay “ahead”) with the policies and solutions to help them protect against, detect and respond to security threats.

The promise of education and learning technology starts to deliver

Ian Fordham, Director of Education

In the past five years, nearly $10 billion has been invested in education and learning technology (edtech) startups globally, and there will continue to be an upward trend in investment – increasingly from China, the Middle East and Africa, where issues of scale, education into employment and low-cost, innovative education models are major priorities.

In 2017 I predict a rise in digital skills bootcamps, technology solutions for access and inclusion, pioneering universities, micro credentialing, blended learning becoming more mainstream, an explosion in solutions at both ends of the age spectrum – early years and adult learning, and more direct to consumer models. AI and machine learning will start to be embedded in curriculum and student support and become the backdrop to how education leaders access and use data to inform strategy and planning across their institutions. The move to the cloud will also accelerate at pace, with early adopters trailblazing the way for others.

classroom, children

The year ahead will see the rise of the “edtech scale-up” and more teacher entrepreneurs creating their own solutions to major challenges facing the education system. There will be a growing focus in schools and colleges on efficacy and impact of tech to support learning. Smart tools and data visualisation will help share this evidence base much more efficiently across the sector. Pioneering ministries of education will launch national edtech and digital strategies with some building digital competences (literacy, maths, digital) straight into the curriculum. Schools and federations / academy chains will also begin to open up greater amounts of data to enable productivity, workload and connectivity.

The promise of education and learning technology is bright, but the bar must be constantly raised to deliver on its promise to transform learning for all.


Next time, Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK Chief Executive, looks at the importance of digital skills; and Nicola Hodson, Chief Operations Officer at Microsoft UK, focuses on the race for digital transformation