5 things anyone working in technology should know about the UK government’s data strategy
These are exciting times for data science, artificial intelligence and everyone involved with data in general. Often perceived to be a few steps behind industries, governments are fast realising the importance of regulation, investment and innovation and they’re upping their game too. In the United Kingdom, data policy and governance were controlled by the Cabinet Office until February 2018, when the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was tasked with them. This move was controversial at first, but it necessitated the building of a young and dynamic team and the creation of a new approach. DCMS now leads across government on data-related policy issues, both within the government and the wider economy.
1.Data infrastructure is at the core of the UK strategy
Data infrastructure consists of data assets supported by people, processes and technology. Data infrastructure, although not as visible and obvious as the traditional infrastructure we see and use every day such as roads, buildings, water and electrical supplies, is just as important.
Jeni Tennison, CEO of the Open Data Institute and one of the panelists at the Westminster eForum titled Priorities for the National Data Strategy — ethics innovation and infrastructure has long been an advocate of regarding data as part of infrastructure. Ms Tennison has stated that trustworthy, open and connected data will be the key to our society’s success. Just as victorian access to core infrastructure like sewerage and transport systems enabled our society to thrive amidst the industrial revolution, so data infrastructure will be an essential part of a more equitable future where we are all more digitally dependent.
2. Data strategy, data science and artificial intelligence are interdependent
Data is the raw material necessary for any and all models being trained to automate or semi-automate processes, in private or public services. The quantity, quality and integrity of these data are of utmost importance. The government wants better flows of data to improve public services but must ensure these without losing public trust. The NHS sharing patient records across departments would greatly improve the service, but the sensitivity of data and challenges communicating these benefits to the public must be better overcome.
The government is well aware of the potential benefits of a well executed strategy: the public sector to improve speed and efficiency in the areas of healthcare, transport, justice and transportation, enabling innovators and technologists among many others.
Getting the quality of data, the right approach to accessing and sharing data and having the right level of governance and transparency into algorithms must all be joined up! Else we risk a loss of public trust (trust deficit) and “digital resignation” of the public (a learned helplessness that comes from having no power to effect the digital world.)
3. Data and techno-ethics is critical
With large data sets and machine learning solutions, ethical questions abound and they need to be addressed before, during and after any new implementation.
Privacy, security, consent and liability each require their own rules, regulations and solutions.
Often this is a race against time with solutions blossoming in all areas of the public and private sectors. But race we must, because as a recent law enforcement solution’s public failure demonstrated, prematurely released or unethical solutions will hinder progress and erode people’s trust in technology.
4. This future should be co-created not centrally published!
As outlined by Gaia Marcus, Head of Data Strategy for the DCMS, the government cannot develop a data strategy alone and their Data Strategy group is right now in “listening mode”. The group is inviting the public and businesses to voice concerns and suggestions in order to build a collective vision that will support the UK to build a world-leading data economy.
In June 2019, the DCMS has released a call for evidence to begin collaboration on the parameters and objectives of the strategy and gather evidence that will form a basis of a draft strategy released later on this year. The deadline for submissions is the 14th July 2019. You can find the details here.
5. AI presents huge workforce opportunity and desperately needs diversity
On the 10th of June it was announced that the UK government is allocating £18.5 million for the training of adults in data science and artificial intelligence. Underrepresented groups will be especially supported with 1000 scholarships available and 5 million will be set aside for adult online learning.
A well trained, diverse artificial intelligence and data science workforce will enable to UK, already the home of the most technology startups in Europe and surpassed only by China and the USA in this area, to be a global leader in artificial intelligence.
Getting the diversity right will reinforce all the other elements above and hopefully then we shall have a recipe fit for all our futures!
Bogi Szalacsi is a Senior Associate with infoNation, based in London. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow infoNation on Twitter: @infoNation5.