I began working in technology as a public affairs account manager in a new business unit created to look at technology issues and e-business. This started my love of technology issues. I then joined the CBI, where I managed the first ever e-business council and was senior policy advisor on information security.
I stayed in cyber security for many years, leading Symantec’s Government relations programme for the UK and Ireland. In 2015, I became the first head of big data, cloud and mobile programme for techUK and last year I became associate director for technology and innovation. This includes ensuring the organisation is the single point of contact for businesses, media, Government and other key stakeholders on all things data, including data protection and privacy, promoting the value of data analytics and how we make sure the UK is AI ready.
Being named in Computer Weekly’s “most influential women in UK tech” last year was a very special moment. Being recognised along with so many amazing women working in the industry today was very humbling. However, it was also a reminder that more needs to be done to get more women involved in our industry and have them recognised for their essential contributions to our sector and in turn society.
There are too many great people to mention that inspire me but a common trait they all have is the ability to take really complex, sometimes technical issues, and present them in a way that brings to life what they really mean to our economy and society in a way that everyone can understand.
I expected 2019 to be a busy year, with more and more organisations across both the public and private sector looking to data driven solutions and advanced data innovation to help achieve their goals and that the digital ethics debate would become more mainstream.
I think both of these happened in 2019, but we also saw a number of new challenging, tough questions raised around data driven innovations, such as facial recognition, that need to be addressed if we are to build greater trust and confidence in these technologies in 2020.
I think this year is going to be challenging as we need to show how our industry is finding real answers and practical solutions to the more gritty, complex and nuanced questions being raised by the adoption of data driven tools and technologies. This is particularly relevant in areas such as fairness, transparency, explainability and accountability. Also, we will need to consider what the UK’s post-Brexit data future looks like and how we secure a data adequacy agreement with the EU.
If we are brave and embrace new data driven, innovative digital technologies and solutions, they have the potential to be significant drivers of economic growth, increased productivity, job creation and change across both the public and private sectors.
Also, data and technology can be a real power for improvements in personal and societal wellbeing, if implemented and shaped in the right way. That is why the digital ethics discussion we are leading in the UK is so important for getting this right.
For many organisations a key challenge will be the structure, format and quality of their data. We must remember that not all firms will have data that is digital today. Many that have digital data-sets will find that they are held in different, or multiple, data systems and in different formats and levels of quality. It is important that organisations get their digital, data foundations right if they are to unlock the potential of digital transformation and innovations such as AI.