Get ready for the UK Data Age

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    Thursday10Sep 2020
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    Guest blog: Gordon Morrison, Director of EMEA Government Affairs, Splunk on data use and the transformation of public services - #techUKSmarterState

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, we have seen a considerable amount of technological change and a realisation that data has a huge part to play in dealing with the virus and the economic recovery. This digital transformation and the focus on data will accelerate. Emerging technologies, led in large part by IoT, AR/VR, blockchain will create more data, and others such as 5G, edge computing and AI/ML will create an environment that facilitates its further growth.

The promise presented by these transformational technologies combined with ongoing societal changes is culminating in the new Data Age. However, organisations are not ready; according to our research on the topic, only 14% of businesses across the world are prepared. 

We already have many policy initiatives in place to accelerate the adoption of these technologies which will, in turn, lead to massive growth in data. The report reveals that in the UK, IT and business managers estimate, on average, that by 2025 their organisations will have 4.8 times the amount of data they currently generate and receive. This compounds a problematic situation in that many are struggling with the data they already have. Across the world, only 51% reported that their organisation was “very good” at managing its data, and only 47% said the same for their organisation’s skill in leveraging its data to drive value for the business. This leaves us with a challenge; a significant proportion of the world’s economy is potentially not where it should be in its ability to manage the growing amounts of data or has the skills to make use of the data. 

Now is the time to prepare, and there is a window for organisations to grapple with these challenges and plan for success. But, what are the policy challenges for the UK Government? 

Firstly, UK industry perhaps needs to understand the competitive and productivity benefits of data, and how managing it better and keeping up with the expected data growth is critical to the economy. We need new data evangelists in the UK, and for data to be at the forefront of every CEOs mind. 

We already know in the UK that data skills are scarce and expertise in AI/ML and some other technologies are equally as problematic. Not everyone needs to be a data scientist, but, in the data age, everyone in an organisation will need to have appropriate data skills. We have all learnt to adopt new technology in the past, in the Data Age, those that exploit data quickest will perhaps be the most competitive.

Finally, citizens will benefit significantly from the Data Age. Data analytics have been used to help mitigate some of the effects of COVID-19, but as the Data Age accelerates, citizens will need to trust ‘Data Age’ related technology. A challenge for all Governments is in how to reassure citizens that they are using data to make ethical, proportionate and appropriate decisions with their data. 

The Data Age presents us with an opportunity to deliver real benefit to the citizen and to support the recovery. To do this, we need to understand the opportunity in our data, improve our skills at all levels and ensure we engender trust in the way we use it. Let’s grasp that opportunity and make sure the UK benefits from this new age. 

Guest blog by Gordon Morrison. Gordon is Director for EMEA Government Affairs for Splunk Inc. He spent the early part of his career as a scientist and project engineer in UK MOD. He then worked in technical and senior management roles in the UK defence industry, delivering Command Support and ISTAR systems to UK MOD and broader UK Government. Most recently, he was a Director at the UK Trade Association for technology, techUK and spent two years with McAfee UK as Director of Government Relations. Gordon has been internationally published, most recently with the World Economic Forum, has given evidence and advice to Parliamentary committees and has spoken at major international events.

This is an abridged version of the article first published in the New Statesman

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