The power of data must be made accessible and available to all and not just specialists if it is truly transform society.
That’s the message from organisers of the second annual Data Fest, which will return to Edinburgh in 2018 following a successful debut event in March this year.
The conference will focus on “data warriors” - drawn from a variety of professions - by offering them the tools and leadership skills required.
It will run from March 19-23, with an international summit taking place in the Capital and numerous fringe events held at venues across the country.
Organised by The Data Lab, the Scottish Government-backed innovation centre launched in 2014, a key message will be that collaboration across sectors is key to supporting future data warriors.
By bringing different industries, expertise and data together, organisers said it would help realise “the huge potential of data”.
The return of the event marks a good year for the centre. Its annual contribution to the economy has doubled to £70 million after ramping up the number of research projects it supports.
It announced in May the 52 initiatives it is backing will create some 250 jobs across the country, of which 190 are described as “high value” positions.
Among the returning speakers at Data Fest 2018 will be Dr Hannah Fry, who said “the more open and collaborative data is, the better use it will be to society”.
She added: “This requires input from all walks of life and areas of expertise - not just mathematicians or data scientists. We must continue to challenge analysis and improve algorithms to derive the greatest value from data.
“Algorithms can support human decisions – not replace them.”
Dr Fry is helping lead pioneering research into how a pandemic spreads and what would happen if one hit the UK using a dedicated BBC Pandemic App.
The free app will anonymously collect vital data on how far users travel over 24 hours. Users will be asked about the number of people they have come into contact with during this time.
By partnering with researchers at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the BBC Pandemic App will identify the human networks and behaviours that spread infectious disease.
The 2018 festival will again be supported again by analytics industry leader SAS.
Senior manager Hugo D’Ulisse said: “If we’re going to use data and analytics to shape and drive the Scottish economy, then it’s vital that we play our part in enabling and improving collaboration, wherever we can, between customers, developers and everyone involved in developing analytics and data science skills.
“There are lots of exciting opportunities in Scotland right now, and helping to make more ideas become a reality through sharing our knowledge and expertise and combining that with the talent and potential here is very compelling.”
Gillian Docherty, CEO at The Data Lab, said: “We are committed to enhancing how data is used in Scotland, and internationally, by giving data warriors in every sector support at the Data Fest next Spring.
More than 2,000 participants attended DataFest17 in March, ranging from school children to politicians, academics to key industry players.