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Data and accelerating technology: Are we moving too fast?

22 Nov 2016

Dr Rachel Gawley, CEO and founder of AppAttic, discusses the evolution of digital technology and the advances and issues ahead

It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago most of us didn’t have a computer and 20 years ago only a small percentage had access to the internet. Those who did often waited several minutes to ‘dial up’ and were billed by the minute. We connected through AOL, navigated using Netscape and searched with Altavista. Meanwhile a couple of cool kids were building Google. I can still remember the excitement of my first outings to the Internet Café – and the large dents 15mins of snail-paced connectivity left in my pocket money.

Fast-forward to today; I’m connected 24/7 at a fraction of the cost.

In less than 30 years, the World Wide Web has developed from a user base of zero to becoming a keystone of modern society. There are virtually no boundaries; we are always connected. It is reported that 67% of the global population now use the internet, with rapid gains being made in emerging and developing countries. This interconnectivity has enabled collaboration that previously would not have been possible and at a speed many of us could only ever have dreamed of. The result is an acceleration in research and development of innovation that will only accelerate further over the next 30 years.

Technology is accelerating, but can we keep up?

There is no doubt, the potential for technological advancement over the next 30 years is phenomenal. Continued investment in research is a must to achieve the future we all desire, however, there is one big problem and it has very little to do with bits and bytes. People that are set in their ways or afraid of change are the biggest barriers to progress; systems and processes that have been in place for many years and the people who are afraid to change them. These are the things that will slow us down in reaping the rewards of our advances. There will be those who are set to lose something from change, and those who simply cannot be bothered with the perceived hassle of change. There will also be those with very legitimate reasons and beliefs for blocking change. Whilst all of these reasons need to be addressed, it is the latter that interests me most.

AppAttic team: Carley Morrow, Herman Chan, Rachel Gawley

Would you sacrifice your privacy if it added 5 healthy years to your life?

Regardless what future advances you look at, it is clear we are moving even further towards a data-driven society. Everything will be interconnected and to take full advantage of these technologies, you too will need to be connected. Alongside the massive benefits to society, everyone has a right to have concerns around data protection, cyber security and even ‘Skynet’.

One of the most important things we can do now is to plan and architect how data should be treated globally. We need to design a system that can be trusted, that is transparent whist ensuring privacy is treated securely and with respect. We need a workable balance between data privacy and convenience and a system that respects personal choice. Once again, this is more of a ‘people’ issue than technology, and one that will likely still be debated 30 years from now.

Dr Rachel Gawley has recently been announced as one of the winners of the Innovate UK Women Infocus Awards. Her tailored package of support will support AppAttic’s latest innovation which is set to disrupt the clinical trial of low risk medical apps through crowdsourcing.

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