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DCMS backs creation of data trusts


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The UK is to pilot the world’s first ‘data trust’ programme aimed at tackling issues such as illegal wildlife poaching and growing food waste.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced an initial investment of £700,000, with plans to provide up to £30 million over the long term, to support technological innovation in the area.

As a first step the Government’s Office of Artificial Intelligence is to work with the Open Data Institute (ODI) on how the exchange of data between organisations through trusts can help in responses to the issues.

The ODI defines data trusts as a legal structure which provides independent, third party stewardship of data for the benefit of a group of organisations or people.

Its chief executive officer Jeni Tennison said: “Increasing access to data can help people, communities and organisations make better and more timely decisions - such as which energy supplier to use, the route a bus should take, or whether to invest in creating a new product. But the people and organisations that have data, use it, and are affected by its use need to trust that it is stewarded well and shared equitably and for agreed purposes.

“Data trusts are one potential way to increase sharing of data and unlock more social and economic benefits from data while protecting other interests such as people’s privacy, corporate confidentiality or, as in the pilot we’re doing on data about endangered animals, our environment.

“The ODI is also looking at other approaches to increased access to data, including data sharing models such as those adopted by the European innovation programme Data Pitch, where large organisations share data with start-ups in order to fuel innovation and answer specific challenges.”

The initial funding will support the design of frameworks for data to be shared in a safe, fair and ethical manner.

Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright is set to follow up the announcement with a speech outlining a package of measures to support innovation in technology for social good. This includes the Government’s partnership with the Social Tech Trust to set up a fund of up to £30 million to provide innovators with access to finance, and a further £1 million to incentivise organisations to use tech to tackle loneliness and bring communities together.

Among the measures in store are:

  • A Social Tech Venture Fund, administered by the Social Tech Trust, for the management of the £30 million.

  • £1 million to incentivise organisations to develop solutions to tackle loneliness and bring communities together.

  • Government backing for new Digital Agenda Impact Awards to showcase and celebrate tech for good innovations from across business, government and charity organisations.

  • A collaboration with the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology and its network of social sector partners to explore how best to support charities to embed digital in their strategy, services and culture.

Wright (pictured) said: “Technology is already making our lives easier in many ways but there is still so much untapped potential that we can deliver for social good.

“As a world leader in emerging technologies, the UK is best placed to foster these opportunities. The new policies announced today, backed by new funding, will encourage industry to deliver technological innovation to address issues as diverse as animal poaching, food waste and loneliness.”

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