Can the U.K. improve its internet economy?

Mar 15, 2016, 3:19 PM EDT
(Source: Christophe Goessen/flickr)
(Source: Christophe Goessen/flickr)

Europe remains behind the U.S. in terms of technological prowess. True, internet speeds aren’t the best on either continent, but as far as innovation and the development of the internet economy goes, Europe has historically played catch-up. Now, with the advancement of certain data-driven tech sectors, the E.U. has the opportunity to scale-up its data capture and analytics game — a revelation made by Charlie Bean, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, in a recent report on U.K. economic statistics.

The report, which was conducted under the auspices of the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, found that "U.K. economic statistics need to be transformed in order to fully capture all the activity in the economy." Bean argues that the U.K.’s economy is stymied by the failure to capitalize on new data-driven markets. The report adds: 

"The digital revolution and fast technological advancements of recent years, have changed the way many businesses operate (Amazon, Skype), given rise to new ways of exchanging and providing services (Airbnb, TaskRabbit), have muddied the waters between work and leisure, and made it far harder to accurately measure economic output."

Bean calls for the creation of a data science hub to be filled with data scientists in order to maximize the use of big data to elevate the U.K.’s status in the digital world. He said: "I have recommended two new centres are set up to better measure economic activity, and also to use the treasure trove of big data available – especially in the public sector."

He notes specific benefits to using big data, for example "the potential [for the Office for National Statistics ]for using new techniques of collecting and analysing big data, such as web scraping, text-mining and machine learning."

In short, the ONS and other government sectors in the U.K. have their work cut out for them in terms of stepping up to the big data plate, not to mention the additional challenge of establishing proper governance. As Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder and Chief Research and Development Officer for the Governance Laboratory at NYU, discusses at the annual Blouin Creative Leadership Summit, the need for ethics in the new world of big data is crucial. A public-private working relationship will need to be part of the data-driven economy. And whether or not the U.K.’s policy makers heed Bean’s advice, a framework for data governance and the future internet economy will need to be established.