2018 - Ten best DataIQ articles you might have missed

David Reed, knowledge and strategy director, DataIQ

As the midnight chimes faded and 1st January 2018 began, there was pretty much only one thing on the minds of data and analytics practitioners - GDPR. Faced with the countdown to its enforcement on 25th May, thoughts focused on how to get compliant.

It’s a question many have still to answer - just 20% of respondents to a recent Trust Arc survey believed they had got there, while an astonishing 27% said they had yet to begin. Consumers were not in a mood to wait, however, as our research demonstrated.

Consumer preference, business compliance - the new GDPR deal

While consumers increasingly want to restrict their data sharing with online services, brands need to map when and where they have captured that personal information. As a result, regtech is emerging as both and enabler of consumer rights and a driver of compliance. New DataIQ Research revealed where that deal needs to be struck, as David Reed reports.

But if the Information Commissioner’s Office was on standby to uncover transgressors after the deadline, it can not have been prepared for the story that was to explode in February and which continues to rumble on. Harvesting of user data from Facebook by Cambridge Analytica started as a media story about one company using secretive means to influence elections and soon became the biggest investigation the ICO - or any other data protection authority in the world - had ever undertaken.

News analysis: Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and GDPR

Claims about manipulation of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election at first seemed fanciful. Then a whistleblower revealed how it was done and the ICO stepped in. David Reed reports on what happened next.

It was a misuse of data which some commentators had been warning about from the early days of what we still called “big data”. The way digital channels and devices open up our lives to scrutiny by parties of which we may be completely unaware was recognised by Cathy O’Neill in her book.

Show me the maths! “Weapons of Math Destruction” review

The subtitle of O’Neil’s book, "How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy,” may  sound somewhat far-fetched, but as Toni Sekinah finds out, the author makes a very solid case for both.

Health data is one of the most sensitive data categories, but healthcare is also where there are huge opportunities for the application of patient intelligence and analytics. Despite a false start with the launch of care.data several years ago, the NHS continued to press on and individual NHS  Trusts have gained confidence in what they can do to improve patient services.

Data and analytics from “ward to board”

When hospital staff are freed up from data gathering, they have more time to give to their patients. This was the key message from Mark Singleton of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust. He detailed how the Trust has become more data literate year-by-year. Toni Sekinah reports. 

Wearable technology saw mainstream adoption during the year. As consumers got more involved in tracking their levels of activity, app developers recognised new opportunities for data-driven services. While not all of the data governance issues have been resolved with this scale of data sharing - as Strava showed by revealing secret military bases in its maps of where people run - the idea of socialised exercise very much became a thing.

Data-driven race training amped up by AI

Runners and joggers can now benefit from AI-powered coaching to help them steer clear of injuries and hit their personal bests. Toni Sekinah speaks to David Brownlee, the chief technology officer of TrainAsONE, about how the system uses data to personalise each training plan and how in the future running workouts could be prescribed to improve general health and wellbeing.

To realise this sort of vision in how data and analytics are deployed, a new, skilled workforce is required. DataIQ reported across the year on a range of initiatives aimed at making this happen, including Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, which celebrated its first year of operation during 2018.

Technically educating the digital workforce of tomorrow

The country’s newest further education college in 23 years saw its first cohort of students receive their grades last month. Toni Sekinah spoke to Tom Fogden, dean and chief operating officer at Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, about the missions of the educational institution and how the curriculum is preparing students for 21st Century careers.

With the current interest in all things data having exploded in 2012, followed swiftly by its adoption into academic syllabi, the first graduates from these new courses started to make their way onto the jobs market in 2018. DataIQ encountered one of them during the Summer and got a ground-level view of what makes the industry appealing as a career.

Incoming data talent: a student perspective

Despite concern about the limited supply of home-grown talent feeding into the UK’s data industry, there are young Brits who are excited and enthusiastic about the idea of working in data. Toni Sekinah speaks to post-graduate Chris Storey about what got him interested in the subject, what he learnt at university and how he wants his career to progress in the data field.

While it will take time to build this pipeline of future knowledge workers, organisations need to fill empty positions now. As the demand for practitioners grew during the year, employers had to start to think creatively about hiring. Three of them offered an insight into their tactics at DataIQ Summit in July.

Hunt further, be innovative, pay less - how to fix the data and analytics recruitment problem

Second only to GDPR, recruitment may be the biggest challenge facing data and analytics functions. So is the answer diversity, recruitment strategies, different pay structures? To find out, DataIQ Summit this year featured a panel of three data leaders who explained how they are tackling their talent acquisition problems.

With GDPR compliance having largely been accepted, even if not fully delivered, both consumers and organisations started to realise that there is a dimension to data use which goes beyond just what is legal. Ethics began to emerge during 2018 as a key theme, despite the late arrival of the government-backed Centre for Data Ethics and AI. Just how data sets with all of their implicit biases can skew algorithms and artificial intelligence has started to concern strategic thinkers and will be certain to dominate the agenda in 2019.

Why adding ethics to tech spells success with AI

A new report on successful deployment of artificial intelligence shows that ethics and human review are at the heart of successful use cases. Dr Iain Brown discussed the findings with DataIQ and explained why fear of the future should be replaced with acceptance of augmentation.

All things personal eventually become political and personal data is no different. While virtually the entire political system spent the year wrangling with Brexit (whose consequences for data flows and employment in this industry will start to become clear next Spring), some thinkers did manage to find the time to focus on appropriate policies. While the next general election may or may not be imminent, parties need to have an opinion on what they see data and AI as offering to the county and the economy. 

Of course, they may also find that it is data and its proper or improper use that sees them elected (or not…)

The new left data policy - more open, regulated and commonly-shared

If you are going to fix the UK economy, you need to think digital - and that means deciding what to do about data. IPPR has done just that in a new report on improving prosperity and justice for all. So what would it mean for the data industry if its ten-point plan were actually to be adopted? David Reed considers.

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Knowledge and strategy director, DataIQ
David is developing the framework for soft skills and career development among data and analytics practitioners. He continues to be editor-in-chief and research director for DataIQ.