How the UK can lead the data revolution

Data is already having a revolutionary impact on our day to day lives. From finding your name on a certain fizzy drinks bottle, to coming home from work and finding that movie everyone is talking about ready for you to watch, these are all examples of data at work today.

The increased amount of data being created and collected allows us to see the world differently. Whether that is the CERN Hadron Collider looking at 16 million GBs of data every year to find the answers to the universe, or companies beginning to unlock, explore and utilise valuable insights and knowledge previously hidden within large datasets in order to reduce costs and increase business efficiencies.

Companies from all sectors are waking up to the value of data and why data matters. But we are just at the start of the big data journey. As our world becomes ever more digital we will continue to see an increase in the amount of data being created. As a result we will see an increased role for data as the power source that will drive forward our digital society and economy.

Better collection, use and analysis of data will see it play a role in all our daily interactions, leading to: the more efficient and effective provision of transport, health and public services; increased personalisation of services; and improved decision making in a business environment. Data, and more importantly data analytics tools and technologies, have the potential to change existing industries and create new ones, through the effective identification and exploitation of market opportunities.

It’s even been identified as a technology that could help us tackle some of the biggest environmental and humanitarian shortages, from better management of supply chains to reduce food shortages, to tracking and prevention of disease and increased understanding of the cause and impact of climate change.

The good news is that the UK is ideally placed to lead this charge. From Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing, to some of today’s most advanced data analytics tools and solutions, the UK has a world-leading data heritage. The big data and data analytics sector in the UK is already underpinning digital transformation across sectors and industries including retail, media and fintech and is a key driver in enabling digital entrepreneurialism.

But if we’re to achieve not only digital transformation in these sectors, but across the whole of our society and economy, and lead the way in the development, implementation and use of data technologies we must improve the confidence in how people’s data is collected, stored and used. Failure to do so will stall not only the data revolution, but also our whole digital economy.

So how do we build a culture of data confidence and trust in order to deliver these ambitions? How do we plot a path between the immediate, incremental benefits and the long term systemic change?

First of all, we must do more to improve understanding of the positive benefits that data plays in people’s lives and rebalance the public data debate. Communicating success stories about how data is being used that have positive social and economic outcomes should be a priority.

Secondly, we have to identify the risks and protect against them. We need a framework that balances the potential offered by big data with the vital privacy and security measures that our democratic values demand.

Finally, we must consider, in this world of increased automation, how we protect individuality and choice. The opportunity for data is huge, but so are the challenges. It is only by tackling both head on that the UK can reach its potential as a global data leader.

Sue Daley, Head of Big Data, Cloud and Mobile, techUK

Image source: Shutterstock/Carlos Amarillo