Does government foster opportunities for Big Data pioneers?

big data

A Parliamentary inquiry into whether the government gives enough support to Big Data entrepreneurs is now underway, and will examine the opportunities and risks of the technology.

The Science and Technology Committee will also explore issues around data protection and data privacy, while reviewing Whitehall's ability to help businesses benefit from the ever-increasing volume of data available.

Committee chair Nicola Blackwood MP said: "Many people enjoy the benefits of Big Data, like quicker, more personalised digital services, but are often concerned about the way their data is used to deliver this.

"This inquiry will be weighing up how we can open up opportunities in Big Data for entrepreneurs, while ensuring that consumers feel their private data is protected.

"Questions remain about how companies obtain consent for the use of personal data and whether the governance of our new information economy is keeping pace with the technology."

People and businesses are invited to give their views via written submissions on the government's ability to support Big Data innovation, the risks presented by the phenomenon, and how public understanding and acceptance can improve.

The inquiry was launched as the EU negotiates amongst its constituent parts to update data protection legislation, with the General Data Protection Regulation expected to be passed by the end of 2015.

The new legislation, which will become law by 2017, should introduce the notion of informed consent for people parting with their data in exchange for a service, as well as making companies processing or holding data more responsible for its safekeeping.

The government hopes to improve open data access by publishing vast datasets from Whitehall departments, and has brought in Mike Bracken to take on the mantle of chief data officer within the Government Digital Service.

It also invested 73 million to fund 55 public sector Big Data projects last year, claiming the technology could create 58,000 jobs by 2017.

Another 42 million is being spent on the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science in King's Cross, which will be a Big Data research hub.

The Committee's inquiry follows a previous report it filed, titled Responsible Use of Data, last year.

Thts report found the UK is not producing workers with the necessary skills to meet the technical challenges of Big Data, and warned that users of online services lack informed consent when agreeing to long terms and conditions.

The inquiry is open to written submissions until 3 September, and people can make a submission here.