Dr. Lethia Jackson serves as the chair of the department of technology and security, which houses the computer technology program, at Bowie State University. The institution recently announced its BIONIC initiative to fight misinformation. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

Bowie State University (BSU) alongside The Maryland Center at BSU announced on Wednesday the establishment of a new innovation center that will execute research and develop projects centered in countering misinformation and disinformation, as well as their consequences. 

The Bowie State University Influence Operations National Innovation Center (BIONIC) was created to leverage artificial intelligence research, public information and human behavioral sciences to thwart detrimental misinformation campaigns. 

BSU will take the lead in the initiative, and its partners include TDX International, an Alaska-based defense intelligence firm; the Greer Institute for Leadership and Innovation, a minority-owned nonprofit focused on harnessing disruptive technologies; Forward Edge-AI, a minority-owned artificial intelligence company; and the Nine Twelve Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on emergent technology solutions. 

“As long as we continue to do our banking online, as long as every business has a website, as long as we’re looking at the Internet of Things and using satellites, such as Netflix and Amazon, to order a product, cybersecurity is not going anywhere,” said Dr. Lethia Jackson, chair of the department of technology and security at Bowie State. “The more we use these things, the more we have to figure out how we’re going to outsmart the people who want to try to take that information.” 

BSU is the only institution in the University System of Maryland, the state’s public higher education system, that offers a computer technology program. In the major, students heavily focus on cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), web services and cybersecurity. 

Through BIONIC, BSU students will assess, analyze and communicate the benefits of integrated approaches to detect, deter and defeat the spread of dangerous misinformation that can threaten U.S. national security. The initiative will also provide students and faculty with access to internships, apprenticeships and career opportunities in advanced technology and science fields. 

Dr. Lethia Jackson serves as the chair of the department of technology and security, which houses the computer technology program, at Bowie State University. The institution recently announced its BIONIC initiative to fight misinformation. (Courtesy Photo)

The creation of BIONIC has also given BSU the opportunity to engender historically Black college and university (HBCU) participation at the new Hawaii Pacific Innovation Campus (HI-PIC), which brings leading technology and innovation together to solve problems and plans to train the next generation of technologists. HI-PIC will provide testing for BIONIC partner solutions. 

BSU expects that BIONIC will lead to research funding that will contribute to continuing education opportunities and the application of student innovation toward solving real-life problems related to misinformation and disinformation. 

“I’m hoping and praying that gives students the exposure they need to start in the real work experience that they want,” said Jackson. “The other thing is that I hope it exposes them to new and different technologies that are coming about because as we know, technology is changing while we’re speaking.”

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