Lord Green: data analytics a "fundamental competence" of the 21st century

Minister for trade and investment Lord Stephen Green has called data analytics a "fundamental competence" of business for the 21st Century, and urges the UK to forge a "digital single market".

Speaking during a panel discussion for the launch of the e-skills UK report on "adoption and employment trends" surrounding big data analytics, Lord Green said

"The online and digital economy is one of the big themes of the twenty-first century."

He went on to say that "in any country in the world, the percentage of business being done online as a proportion of total economic activity is rising."

However, he said that "the British economy has the highest percentage of its economic activity taking place online of any economy in the world."

This is a fact that he called "not widely-enough appreciated."

He added that although countries like South Korea with strong digital economies were often credited as being the most "wired" countries in the world, Britain had the greatest percentage of its activity taking place online.

"A fact," he said, "that I took pains to remind the Korean President of just yesterday."

Green went on to talk about the crucial role that big data analytics is playing in the future of the information economy.

"Behind the digital economy," he said, "lies all of the support infrastructure, and of course the big data infrastructure."

Big data is becoming increasingly important for "small businesses," he added, "as they work to expand their business through the online economy."

It is important for the government to work with the relevant parts of the private sector to ensure that we are easing forward big data analytic capability.

Big data ability is one of the UK's strongest points, and we need to continue to invest in that.

He added that the Information Economy strategy was published in June of this year, a report which set out the government's ambition, alongside big business, to expand the digital economy.

Lord Green also urged the UK to form a "digital single market" with regards the European Union (EU). "Broadening and deepening the single market is a concern for us all," he said. Information "should be more freely available to small businesses as they trade more and more online."

Green talked about how the UK was one of the most data-rich societies in the world.

"We have meteorological information dating back to 1659 for goodness sake," he quipped.

Lord Green is the Baron of Hurstpierpoint, and is a former Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings plc. He worked for HSBC for nearly 30 years, from 1982 to 2010, when he joined the Conservative party. He was appointed Minister of State for Trade and Investment as part of the coalition government in an unpaid and unelected capacity.

Green is an ordained priest in the Church of England, and is the author of the book "Serving God? Serving Mammon?" about theological concerns arisen during the financial crisis.

His talk followed closely behind the release of the Gartner big data survey, which predicted "staggering potential" in the market for big data analytics.

Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office