Data is a game changer

Data is a game changer

The Data Lab is a government funded innovation centre with hubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, explains Gillian Docherty, CEO.

Every aspect of our lives today is data-driven.

In everyday life, being technically savvy is the new norm. From downloading music, exercising and ordering the weekly shop, through to crime prevention and medical diagnosis.

Data provides a wealth of opportunities and can be a strategic asset in trade, competition and innovation. Whether using historic or real-time data that’s generated through supply chains, production processes or customer behaviours, an organisation has much to gain by analysing the wealth of information they have at their fingertips. It’s also worth an estimated £20bn to the Scottish economy.

That is why at The Data Lab, we do everything in our power to help Scotland realise the full potential of data.  We enable industry, public sector and world-class university researchers to innovate and develop new data science capabilities in a collaborative environment. Our core mission is to generate significant economic, social and scientific value from data.

Scotland’s unique landscape of leading industry and university institutions has attracted businesses and talent alike. Edinburgh, for example, boasts world-class research in informatics and computer science attracting some of the world’s brightest minds to our country’s capital. However, it is essential that we continue to both attract and retain a secure a pipeline of data talent to enable further innovation and progress in the field of data.

Despite data science capabilities being one of today’s hottest skillsets, The Data Lab is also here to show that the power of data can be harnessed by anyone that sees its potential – not just those traditionally perceived as data specialists.

DataFestData Fest 18, the second outing for The Data Lab festival, will support ‘data warriors’, whatever their core profession or industry, by providing inspiration, tools and leadership skills to make a difference. The festival will run from 19th to 23rd of March next year encompassing a talent event, an international summit and numerous fringe events across Scotland.

We believe that collaboration across sectors is key to supporting Scotland’s data warriors. By bringing different industries, expertise and data together, the huge potential of data can be realised.

An example of pioneering collaboration is our partnership with UNICEF. We’ve joined forces with UNICEF to call for public and private organisations to collaborate for the good of Scottish children by sharing data to help solve pressing public problems.

The first collaborative project aims to address the issue of child obesity in Scotland. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions across the globe, affecting millions of children. Since1998 the proportion of children in Scotland aged 2-15 at risk of being overweight and obese has fluctuated between 29% and 33% putting these children at risk of serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes.

UNICEF has recognised that solving some of the most complex problems affecting children around the world will require access to different data sets and expertise from diverse sectors. The rapid rise in the availability of quality data offers a wealth of information to address complex problems affecting children. UNICEF saw that the opportunity to tap into this potential lay in collaborative working – prompting the development of DataCollaboratives.org in partnership with The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the Omidyar Network.

DataCollaboratives is about encouraging organisations from different sectors including private companies, research institutions, government agencies and others, to exchange and share data to help solve pressing public problems

This is just one example of how data can change lives and affect systemic change for good in Scotland. With the right pipeline of talent, the right understanding of data’s potential and the right ambition – which is in abundance in Scotland – we can achieve so much.