UK parliament to examine big data efforts

The UK's House of Commons is to set up a new inquiry to examine the use of big data analytics in the country, asking what benefits it can offer to businesses and consumers, as well as looking at whether the government is doing enough to support the technology.

The Science and Technology Committee is seeking information and opinions on a variety of questions, such as where any skills gaps lie that prevent companies taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by big data, and what support is needed from the government to encourage research and development in the sector.

It will also examine the privacy implications of big data analytics solutions and ask what can be done to reassure consumers about how their personal information is being used.

Chair of the committee Nicola Blackwood MP said: "Growth in computing power continues at a remarkable pace, bringing enormous economic and social opportunities as new public and private services are developed using 'big data' sets."

However, she added that while many people enjoy the benefits of big data, such as faster, more personalised services, there remain concerns about how their details are used to deliver these results. Questions need to be answered regarding how companies secure consent for the use of personal data and whether the governance of the new information-based economy is keeping pace with developments in technology.

It was noted by Computer Weekly that big data was identified by the last government as one of the eight 'great technologies' that have to potential to transform the UK economy. The government has looked to support the sector by providing £189 million of funding to big data and green IT initiatives in 2013. while last year, it also contributed £42 million to the Alan Turing Institute, which is headquartered at the British Library and aims to promote new data science developments.

However, a report produced last November by the Science and Technology Committee warned that despite such efforts, there are persistent problems in ensuring people are given the right training and education to be able to contribute to the industry.

Among the industry bodies to welcome the new inquiry was techUK, which stated it is essential that awareness is raised about what big data is and where the opportunities lie.

Sue Daley, head of programme for big data, cloud and mobile at the organisation, said the it is vital that the inquiry takes into account the full breadth and depth of big data's capabilities.

"It's not just about social media or personalised advertising; big data has the potential to offer a wider range of benefits and efficiencies to organisations across both the public and private sector," she said. "We also encourage the Committee to consider the essential role being played by UK companies leading the development of innovative big data and data analytics services, tools and solutions."

Interested parties looking to have their say on the UK big data sector have until September 3rd to submit their responses to the inquiry.

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