Johnson: North Louisiana flexes muscles on cybersecurity

Louisiana’s cybersecurity efforts were on display for the nation at the National Governor’s Association National Summit on Cybersecurity held in Shreveport-Bossier in May but North Louisiana really flexed its muscles as an example for collaboration and cybersecurity advancement in the nation.

“The I-20 corridor in Louisiana is now one of the fastest growing cybersecurity regions, not just in Louisiana, not just in the South, but in the nation,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards during his keynote address at the summit. “I believe Louisiana can become an example for others.”

Bossier has been putting cyber at the forefront of its plan for the future for years, particularly by creating the National Cyber Research Park.

“Perhaps the most important part of cybersecurity is workforce training and that is something we have had a laser focus on in Louisiana,” Edwards said. 

Edwards moderated a panel at the summit on just that: Preparing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals in Louisiana. This panel was stacked with North Louisiana representatives, including Dr. Rick Bateman, Chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College; Dr. Les Guice, President of La. Tech University; Rick Gallot, President of Grambling State University; Yogesh Khanna, Chief Technology Officer at General Dynamics Information Technology; Ralph Russo, Director of Information Technology Programs at Tulane University; and Craig Spohn, Executive Director of the Cyber Innovation Center. 

The Governor touted the programs offered at the colleges and universities, particularly those in North Louisiana as BPCC boasts three associates degrees, one academic certificate and two technical competency areas in cyber; Louisiana Tech offers the nation’s first four-year degree in cyber engineering and anticipates with that degree the university will soon be first in the number of cyber engineering degrees awarded in the nation; Grambling State University is offering the state’s first four-year degree in cybersecurity starting in the fall of 2019 and the university already is in the Top 50 nationally for the number of African-American graduates in computer science and computer information systems. 

One point that was clear throughout the conference was reiterated by Bateman during the panel: Cybersecurity is for everyone. And, BPCC has a vision for embedding cyber into all of its programs to build a generational workforce that is better prepared to defend against cyber attacks.

The same week, the governor announced the formation of the new Cyber Center Hub of North Louisiana, a collaboration between the state, Cybint Solutions, BPCC, Louisiana Tech University, Northwestern State University, Grambling University and Louisiana State University-Shreveport. The Cyber Center will be housed on the BPCC campus and will offer Cyberint’s cyber education and workforce development classes for cybersecurity professions and students. 

Couple all of that higher education synergy with General Dynamics Information Technology in the National Cyber Research Park, the Cyber Innovation Center with the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center, as well as Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base and you have a winning combination for a trained workforce ready to help diversify our local economy. 

Lisa Johnson is president and CEO of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce

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