Why is the cyber industry becoming such a big deal in Georgia?
Georgia has historically had a strong industry and workforce around FinTech. Around 70% of all U.S. transactions handled by payment processing firms occur in Georgia at one of over 50 FinTech companies. Additionally, Georgia leads the nation in Health IT companies with over 225 companies, employing over 30,000 people. Both of those sectors require significant cybersecurity elements to protect the highly personal data that they work with, and today, Georgia has over 120 cybersecurity firms in operation. On top of that, the U.S. Army is locating its Cyber Command operations and training center to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, with over 5,000 military and civilian cybersecurity-focused individuals. All these factors help make Georgia the number three state in the nation for information security.
How is the demand for workforce being supported with this boom?
Georgia is working hard to provide a skilled workforce that meets the cybersecurity demand. At the university level, the University System of Georgia has created the FinTech Academy to be utilized by its 26 public institutions to train FinTech and cybersecurity professionals. It also has eight nationally-ranked cyber institutes with CAE-R or CAE-DC designation. Georgia Tech has established the Institute for Information Security & Privacy and has staffed it with 200 researchers in nine labs in an effort to collaborate with industry and government on cutting-edge cybersecurity research. Columbus State University has a partnership with TSYS Cybersecurity. Augusta University has colocated with Augusta Technical College at the Georgia Cyber Center. In addition to higher ed, local K-12 programs have implemented cybersecurity pathways which provide middle and high school students with cybersecurity training and certifications.
WAIT...Isn't Augusta where the Masters takes place every year?
It is. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Augusta from around the world every April for “the Tournament” as it’s known locally. That also means this community is connected globally, with state of the art fiber and telecommunications infrastructure here that serves as the backbone to a growing cybersecurity hub. Starting this spring, technology improvements will allow the Tournament to provide an online experience that includes “the ability to watch virtually every shot from every player on every hole” on demand. That requires high bandwidth infrastructure that the U.S. Army, the NSA and numerous cybersecurity companies are also here taking advantage of.
How is the cyber industry evolving in today's landscape and how is Georgia staying on top of the changes?
We all know that technology change happens quickly. US Army Cyber Command has established a cyber school that is adjacent to US Army Cyber Command with the goal being that as command operations notice changes in attack strategies and methods, they’ll be able to quickly implement those changes in the training for new operators. That effort relays to their private and public sector partners and to our workforce.
What does a company gain from being in Georgia vs. other states?
From Teflon to the internet, a lot of modern marvels developed through federal and military research and spending efforts. Georgia is the center of a significant amount of federal spending around cybersecurity. A company may not directly have a contract with the government here, but they can get access to the talent that is developing here, and it can build off of the resources that are being put into play. The talent is here. The knowledge is here. The opportunity is here. A company that’s not here is missing out on all three.
What do you see going forward for the success of this industry in Georgia? (R&D, innovation, etc.)
Cybersecurity started out focusing on protecting static networks. It’s evolving into Internet of Things applications, drone systems and artificial intelligence applications. Research and commercialization of all three of those elements are all happening in Georgia, today. The federal government and the State of Georgia have made cybersecurity a major focus and will continue to do so. Much like the emergence of FinTech created a larger need for cybersecurity, being on the cutting edge draws talent which then create new ideas and new applications. We’re primed here for great growth.