The world today is a very different place from only 10 years ago.
We now see driverless cars as a viable technology, physical media has been replaced by a screen and the world has gone through one of the deepest recessions in its history. Another key element that has changed considerably is how people have begun to shift towards the right hand side of the political spectrum, moving towards protectionism rather than collaboration. We have seen with Donald Trump’s rhetoric about walls and the UK’s much discussed ‘Brexit’ that this is a theme across the western world.
The question that we need to ask is how much this could potentially impact those who work with data and what would be the likely challenges we face in data collection?
We have already seen that data sharing across borders is incredibly important, with the issues surrounding the collaboration agreements between the EU and the US making several headlines following a court decision that nullified the original system. If the world becomes a more isolated place, the data that we share will become far more difficult to use, not just for companies to collect, but will potentially have even larger consequences on the ability to collaborate in other areas.
Concentrating on the EU debate (as this has more evidence behind it), the EU is currently the global leader in terms of scientific researchers, housing 22.2% of the global demographic. One of the great things about the current EU system is that this huge number of scientists can move between countries to collaborate and create data with ease. It means that data created in Switzerland one day can be tested in the UK the next.
In fact, when you look at the number of scientific papers currently coauthored by the UK and international scientists in collaboration, it makes up over 50% of the total UK output.
This increase in research would not have been possible in an isolated country, as we would have seen significant delays in sharing data
produced and a notable decrease in the number of people capable of effectively analyzing it.
Even more importantly, we would not have the kind of data talent in our countries. Imagine if DJ Patil’s parents would have never been able to move to the US? If the team who created Hadoop would never have been able to work together? If Gregory Shapiro had not been offered a scholarship in the US? International collaboration and free movement have been at the heart of the rise of our data-driven society, so if we move back to a state where this is not the case, the industry as a whole will suffer.