Towards a society of data and algorithms

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From a device display through to a forum on service innovations. This could well be the concluding assessment of the most recent edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC18). The event has definitively shifted from being a mobile trade show to a space for considering the uses and objectives that software developments should be aiming at. Indeed, this year it was shown that in the creative process one first needs to think about optimising services for people, and then about the technology that can make this possible.

From this perspective, new features for mobile devices have taken a secondary role to the apps that are expected to improve people’s lives in the very near future. From tele-assistance to 5G-connected medical interventions and even initiatives to eradicate poverty, the fields of healthcare and social services are those that are set to benefit the most from the applied innovations presented at MWC18. Predictive algorithms were also a key feature. A good example of this is the system developed by the UAB Computer Vision Centre to estimate the number of people in large crowds by means of both static and moving images, with a much lower margin for error than has been achieved to date.

The technologies that enable these stellar services on show at MWC18 are no secret: Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). What do they have in common? On the one hand, their objective: to interconnect objects and humans. And on the other, data; their raison d’être. Because any IoT or artificial intelligence app inevitably needs to collect and analyse data.

It is in this area that public administrations have a fundamental role to play. Which? Probably their most important mission in this respect is to guarantee equal access to data. The idea is that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic situation, is able to use, process and re-use public data in order to innovate in goods and services, take more efficient decisions, and improve all kinds of processes.

In the immediate aftermath of the MWC, which this year was more high-tech than ever, we can confirm that we are embarking on a fourth industrial revolution that will give rise to a society of data and algorithms. Now is the time, therefore, to create spaces for sharing ideas within public organisations which must ensure equal opportunities for accessing this society. For some years now the Government of Catalonia has been implementing a decisive policy to open up data and promote its re-use; and now, almost certainly, its task will be to ensure that open data does not become another digital and social gap.
You are all very welcome to participate and share your own ideas and experiences and how you think public institutions can better promote equality in accessing data.

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