Why The US Government Needed A Chief Data Scientist

DJ Patil's appointment came at the perfect time, here's why


Firstly, we would like to congratulate DJ Patil on his appointment as Chief Data Scientist for The US Government. We think that he was a great choice and will bring considerable experience and drive to the role.

His appointment comes at an important time, a time when the government desperately needed to have expertise like his working with them.

But why is this?

Data Crisis

We have seen the government take a huge hit on the way they deal with data from the Edward Snowden data release. Their reputation has been severely damaged and the only way to salvage it is through this appointment.

Having somebody who is universally respected across the data community is the best way to start this. DJ has been important in the creation of the data programmes for Linkedin and Facebook, two of the largest data holders in the world.

In addition to this he is widely credited (alongside Jeff Hammerbacher) with coining the term Data Science, so he is a great face to have for the first US Chief Data Scientist.

Constantly Changing Landscape

Not only does it take a face and name to help alleviate the crisis, but it also needs somebody who knows what is happening within the data community going forwards. This is vital and with DJ, they have managed to bring in somebody who has their finger on the pulse of the latest trends and patterns within the industry.

Governments are often labeled as backwards and lacking the ability to be truly reactive, whilst a Chief Data Scientist within this space will allow this to potentially change. This is due to them knowing when things can be changed and when they can’t. For instance, DJ will know exactly which data legislation will be most important for companies and which could wait.

With the speed in which the industry is currently moving, it is important that as new potential issues that need regulation arise, the government have somebody with the knowledge of the area who can put together workable rules that are fit for purpose. We have seen statements from World leaders that show how out of touch they are, such as the idea from David Cameron that there should be no encryption on internet communications. Having DJ advising on what should and shouldn’t be said and done is going to be important for the World’s most powerful government in order to promote the industry without leaving it open to abuse.

Working With Data Companies

As we have mentioned, DJ has worked with some of the biggest data holders in the world and even those who he hasn’t worked with directly will know about him and his work. This means that when potential changes are being discussed with companies, they know that they will be discussing it with somebody on a level playing field.

We often hear from civil servants that they are ultimately being managed by somebody who doesn’t know about the intricacies of what the industry requires. For instance if we look to the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has no previous financial experience. Jeremy Hunt, has also been moved from the secretary of state for culture to the secretary of state for health, with no experience of either.

Having somebody who is from the industry representing the government gives far more credibility to any actions taken by the government in the future. It comes at a time when governments are increasing at loggerheads with data titans, so the timing could not be better. 


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