Data Summit 2019 Key Takeaways

Data Summit 19

By Anna Knight

It’s been a week since Data Summit 2019 ended and what a fabulous event it was! So good, it really was hard to choose my favourite speaker, so I’ve chosen my favourites…..

The event started brilliantly at the Data Summit Dinner with Sue Black OBE (Technology Evangelist and Digital Skills Expert) opening the Summit with a great overview of her early life, her work, and her very big part in ensuring the future of Bletchley Park, where British codebreakers were based during WWII and penetrated most famously the Enigma and Lorenz Ciphers. Bletchley Park was at risk of closure and re-development from the early 90’s and in 2003 Sue started to raise awareness of the decay and secured new interest in funding for the site, ultimately ensuring it’s continued survival. Sue also talked through her founding of

‘Techmums’, which is an initiative offering free training in digital security, social media and coding  – amongst other things – with the aim of increasing women’s confidence, breaking down the digital divide, and helping them escape poverty.

After the surprise visit from the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday, Friday morning was spectacular starting with Liberty Vittert (Associate Editor at Harvard Data Science Review) presenting on Fake News – How to spot the Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics. For someone as cynical as me this talk was totally gripping, and Liberty talked us through some great – but worrying – examples of how data and statistics can be used to manipulate people’s views where little or no context is given around the gathering and positioning of the data. She used the OJ Simpson Trial and Defence Attorney Alan Dershowitz’ creative use of statistical probability as her first example, following this with the London Black Cabs case against Uber and some interesting views on the statistics we are being exposed to via the media and corporations on everything from the consumption of chocolate and alcohol to which toothpaste we use. Thought provoking stuff, and it’s certainly made me question the blind acceptance of some of the ‘stats’ that I am made aware of about going about my daily life.

Following Liberty was Stephanie Hare, who spoke so passionately about ‘Biometrics Paradox – Protecting your identity while losing your freedom’. Stephanie gave a hugely engaging view on the scary evolving trend for the stealth and unregulated gathering and use of biometric data, in particular facial and fingerprint recognition (of our children too). It raised a huge amount of questions around government and organisations rights and permissions to gather, process and store our personal biometric data. She also encouraged us to support a successful delivery of a UK Biometric Strategy by contacting our MPs, ICO – and anyone else who will listen – to force awareness and action.

Finally, the AMAZING Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock talked to us about The Power of a Crazy Dream. Dr Aderin-Pocock is a Space Scientist and Science Communicator (you may have seen her on BBC Sky at Night or other programmes) and the most incredible speaker. Full of enthusiasm she talked us through her childhood, her career, her dreams and ambitions – one of which is to be able to visit a habitable Exoplanet… and left me with the feeling that anything is possible!

I was lucky enough to bump into her afterwards and after I’d explained how my 7 year old daughters career ambition was to become a Space Artist, Maggie wrote her a lovely letter which my daughter now has framed on her wall. What an inspiration!

Here’s to Data Summit 2020!