I wrote my three reflections for the week below and then realised that they were all really negative! I’m sorry about that; it must be the general state of the nation rubbing off on me…
Being rude about transparency
I had a chat earlier in the week with some people who are working on providing more technical controls around access to data (think privacy-enhancing technologies and trusted research environments), alongside transparency mechanisms so that it’s possible to see what has and hasn’t been done with data.
This is all laudable but I guess I was in my most sceptical mood during it. I made the point that organisational Boards don’t have the skills to properly scrutinise uses of data. Auditors haven’t (yet) developed data or algorithmic auditing to nearly the same degree as they have financial auditing. We’re left with whistleblowers and campaigning third parties, and what they need isn’t information that’s prettily presented, but raw data that they can analyse and dig into.
This did leave me thinking about the kind of information – and capabilities – communities need to understand and scrutinise the collection and use of data, to be able to play a meaningful and active role in data governance.
Moans about funding and fundraising
We’ve had a couple of successes with some fundraising recently (as well as some failures). It’s great to secure some additional investment, but there’s so much overhead:
- getting programme officers to the stage where they’ll entertain a bid
- drafting and finalising proposals and budgets
- working through the due diligence and legal administration
- reworking our workplan, budget and forecast
- recruiting for the people to support the work (we’re recruiting! spread the word)
- ensuring we’re satisfying conditions and restrictions on using the money
- reporting at different times and in different formats
These are not new complaints of course, but I’m much closer to every one of these steps now than I was at ODI, so it’s hitting home a little more.
Complaints about political distractions
The soap opera of UK politics has been a real distraction this week. Aside from the havoc it’s wreaking on the UK, and the damage to the huge numbers of people facing the sharp end of the cost of living crisis, there’s the much less important impact closer to home for us, particularly on the progress of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which looks as though it will be up in the air for a while yet.
On the bright side, though, this does give us more time to prepare…