Science & Technology Committee: the Big Data Inquiry (panel 2)

At the second session, The Minister Ed Vaizey MP gave evidence to  the Committee.


Valerie Vaz: Minister, I understand that you have to leave early. It would have been quite nice to talk to you about lots of different things.

Mr Vaizey: I am happy to stay. Nothing is more important than this Committee. The all-party writers group will have to wait.


Valerie Vaz: Could you tell us a bit about the digital transformation plan and how we are getting on with it?

Mr Vaizey: The digital transformation plan was announced in the summer Budget. The plan is to produce a report, I hope by the end of January—don’t hold me to that—which will look at drawing together all the digital initiatives the Government are currently undertaking. It will look at all the landscape you are covering in terms of organisations like the Alan Turing Institute, the Open Data Institute and others, as well as Innovate UK, but it will also look at each area where Government operate, whether it is schools, transport or the Home Office, and how we can start to embed digital. The work is being undertaken by officials in the digital economy unit in my Department, but it is important that we work very closely with the Cabinet Office and the Government Digital Service. For me, the great prize of the plan will be essentially embedding digital and fundamentally changing the way the Government do business, but also the kind of experience citizens have in a whole range of different areas.


Valerie Vaz: Will you be looking at privacy issues and regulation as well?

Mr Vaizey: Privacy will form an important part of that. What is clear from all the questions so far in this evidence session is that privacy and security sit right at the heart of everything we do, because it is not just keeping data anonymous; it is also keeping data secure and not allowing it to leak. Cyber-security and keeping data secure is a very important aspect.


Valerie Vaz: Will that work look at the skill shortage in data analysis?

Mr Vaizey: It will certainly look at the skill shortage. We are investing a lot in skills. It is important to say that every developed country is facing a skill shortage. The US is facing one, even though we laud their leadership in technology; other European countries are as well. We are fundamentally changing not just the school curriculum but also further education and university curriculums, embedding a much closer relationship with business; you need that relationship with technology companies because technology changes so quickly. But there is no magic bullet. It will take time. We are working very hard to address some of these issues.


Valerie Vaz: You are straddling two Departments. Which Department has the responsibility for it?

Mr Vaizey: DCMS has responsibility.