Data Summit 2018 was a resounding success for the Irish Government and its data centric partners who share in its vision for a data driven future

Ireland as a nation has gained a great reputation for many things including playing host to a tech savvy people who highly value their relationship with technology! On that happy note, enter Data Summit on the 19th of September, 2018 in Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland. There we saw a hashing out of hot technological topics such as Ethical Frameworks, AI, GDPR plus more that the Irish Government is engaging on with the European Union and some of the world’s leading technology companies!

Brian and Alan from iScoil, shared their inspiring story! They are a charity who are providing a key service to Irish society in the protection and education of troubled children. Basically, when a child falls out of the conventional school system for a myriad of reasons, they can be refered to iScoil who are specialists in reaching these children via online tools and bringing them back via blended learning into the mainstream educational system.  Food Cloud, are a supply side business where relationships by retailers with surplus food are handled by them. James and Kapal expained their intuitive online application that has a supply side (supplier) and a demand side (charity) view (Food Cloud ).  Scientific Foundation Ireland, the Data Protection Commissioner are also bringing real value to our society.

There was an open panel discussion on reshaping industry through data. The panelists included David Hunt, CEO of Cainthus talking about his success with data and the agricultural industry. Basically, farmers with a broadband connection will buy digital products you can prove works for them improving their narrow margin and their prospects. Michael Cocoman from Stripe gave an overview of Stripe and its mission to enable payments in the digital marketplace. Next up was Dr Helen McBreen, Fund Manager with Atlantic Bridge investment who talked about Ireland and its pool of skilled talent making it an attractive place for a wealth of data driven start ups. The final panel member was Gavin Littlejohn, Chairman of the Financial Data and Technology Association, who was very passionate about how regulators should regulate the effects of technology on society and not the technology itself. Whilst I was attending this panel discussion, there were concurrent panels in the Cusak and Canal suites giving equally engaging talks for the attendees.

The 2nd keynote of the day I attended in the Hogan suite was kicked off by Julie Brill from Microsoft on ethical frameworks and AI. Julie feels that no AI should make decisions and deliver them to humans in an unethical manner. For instance, an AI should not deny you a car loan without providing a reason for its delivered decision. She believes ‘counterfactuals’ are a good way to explain a decision for an AI. This ethical approach is something that she admits requires work as good ethics in Ireland may upset someone from the other side of the world! Corey Salzburg, VP of Novartis gave a background of why AI is important to Novartis. Currently, Novartis will develop one FDA approved drug from 10,000 compounds over 10-15 years at a cost of $1-$2 billion US dollars. AI has proven it can make connections quicker, identify threats and pitfalls earlier and reduce that time to market metric along with cost, which amounts to a win win for the patient and Novartis.

Next on that panel was Prof. Barry O’Sullivan from UCC, who talked about AI, its inception and why AI is not ‘Skynet’ where killer robots will end humanity’s dominance on the earth! His position is that AI should flourish with only basic human intervention protocols in place and leave ethics to the humans who run it. Julie was off a different opinion in so far as security via technological controls is warranted such as an ethical framework. Through the lively debate, the commonality of caution and control were presented by both parties via different approaches to AI deployments and development! Barry also invited us as EU citizens to join the EU community on AI policy development called the European AI Alliance. When you have your Futurium account activated, you can then sign up for the EU AI Alliance.

Finally was the Cybersecurity Event with Prof. Joe McCarthy of UCD introducing the need for regulation by governments for cybersecurity traceability reasons. He explained about the resistance to declaring yourself and your computer on an online government register, and compared it to registering cars back in the early 20th century and how lost lives changed attitudes. Whilst registering IP machines to people does make sense in my view, I’m not sure we will be as safe as he implied given the threat posed by the dark web, and the ‘dark-hat’ hacker community. That said, its a step in the right direction in terms of getting organised but implementation will need to be meticulously planned and harmonious across member states.

Jackie Fox, from Deloitte talked about penetration testing (ethical hacking of companies by cyber security professionals) and the new Red Team strategy for teams of cyber security professionals. Richard Browne from the National Cyber Security covered the NIS Directive and how it hits home at the seriousness of cybersecurity and indeed data management to national governments. He also thinks governments should robustly pursue programmes of education for cyber security professionals expanding the graduate base to meet the demands of a fast growing industry.

Ireland’s position as a Data leader can only be strengthened with events like these. They proactively display our willingness at all levels to engage and solve some of the most pressing issues that our society needs to address in the development of our digital relationships with machines and each other. Such work today, whilst certainly difficult will only influence a better tomorrow when good people get involved at all levels of our society, which can bring fairness, prosperity and opportunity to all who live in it!


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