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Guest Blog: “I was there when the community decided to fix personal data”

Posted on: Saturday 5th of December 2015

by David Evans, Director, Policy and Community, BCS

If you’re reading this, you’re likely one of those who understands the opportunities to treat personal data very differently. What we want as individuals, consumers and citizens has become out of step with what we want as creatures of organisations. That’s bad for business, that’s bad for society. It needs fixing.

BCS is here to make information and technology good for society. Today, the 8th of December, at PIE 2015 we are talking about a challenge to those who care about personal data to step forward. There are so many smart people with visions of how things could be different and better around personal data – both for enlightened self-interest and because it is right – and we want to help. BCS is a charity with a Royal Charter that exists to support people who want to make a difference where society is impacted by the world of digital.

We’ve been talking to a wide range of people who are interested in fixing personal data, who understand about digital citizenship, or children and technology, or security and risk – and asking them how BCS can help support them in what they want to do. This is leading us to launch a challenge to the community, to the tech sector, and anyone who can make a difference, to work to shared goals and fix this stuff. However, we’re not ready to do that just yet; as a first step we’ll be putting up our draft goals for discussion and debate.


Solving problems

We’ve got form on this. On the 11th of April in 2008, I registered the domain – after an inspirational meeting in Cambridge with some founding fathers of the tech world who believed that every child should have the opportunity to learn how to make digital technology. Some of those in that room went on to launch the Raspberry Pi, and some went on to change what went on in our schools. Now, after a long campaign to change the national curriculum in England, and to build a network of teachers across the UK, schools, universities and businesses to deliver it, we’re in a different world. We’ve got over 20,000 teachers in 170 hubs meeting together to support each other. Government leaders have come from all over the world to look at what we’ve done together, and thanks to this work new generations currently in school will have a chance to define or re-define their digital destinies.

That was a challenge to solve a major societal problem – kids were learning to use a spreadsheet designed by someone else, now they’re learning to be the designer. Leaders in technology, and computer science, and teaching, got together and made it happen, and BCS played its part in supporting them, creating the space to have the conversation, and championing the result. We didn’t pretend we had all the answers, we didn’t start the conversation; we opened the doors to those that did and pretty soon they were ‘us’, a thriving community with shared values and common goals.

We’re doing the same thing, only this time it’s coming together to fix an even bigger challenge – personal data. I’ve been talking to experts of all kinds, and working with the inspirational Alan Mitchell to build a draft. We’re putting up our starter for ten, and then we’ll get in a room to get it right and build a plan to fix it. Take a look at

I was in the room when inspirational people set out to change education for future generations, and you can be in the room when we all get together to inspire each other to redefine our digital relationships. BCS won’t do it; BCS is here so that all of us can do it together.