Ben Plouviez, Directorate of Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities, Scottish Government

Written by Alan Robertson on 9 November 2015 in Feature

For 100 days, Connect is running through our Tech 100 for 2015, profiling the key figures driving the digital agenda in Scotland

Ben Plouviez (@benplouviez)

Job Title/Organisation: Head of Information Governance, Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities Directorate, Scottish Government

What does your role involve?

Officially: helping all parts of the Directorate of Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities, and the family of public bodies around it, to acquire, manage, share and use data and information effectively, for optimal value, and in accordance with legal, regulatory and corporate requirements. What that means: talking endlessly about data standards, data sharing, open data, metadata, data protection, freedom of information, records management and – well – stuff.

What do you consider to be the most imminent challenge in your line of work?

Environmental, agricultural and socioeconomic data about Scotland’s rural areas is a hugely valuable resource and the challenge is to ensure that that richness is available to exploit while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals and businesses to privacy and protection. 

What has been the most rewarding piece of work you've undertaken?

Working with other public bodies to start to put together a vision of what digital transformation of rural services and environmental information in Scotland might look like. We’ve a way to go and a great deal of the early stuff is unexciting ground-clearing – like making sure we actually know what data and services we all have – but the sense of starting something so big and so valuable is truly exciting.

How can Scotland bridge the digital skills gap?

Scotland’s businesses, schools, public bodies, colleges and universities have some of the most advanced and innovative digital skills in the world. It also has a vibrant – if sometimes abrasive – online culture. So one part of the answer is: “by celebrating what we’ve got and using it better.”

We also need to take more risks, technically and creatively, to quicken the pace of change because to a great extent it’s momentum that brings people along with you, not hesitancy and caution. 

Which new technology excites you the most?

Mobile. I think we’ve hardly begun to explore what the effects will be of pervasive sensing, communicating, always-on computing power. I get really frustrated when colleagues talk about the importance of mobile and it turns out they mean “testing how a web page renders in Safari”…

What's your favourite app and why?

Downcast. I have a long-ish commute to and from work and podcasts are my way of using that time to explore the world beyond the windscreen wipers.

What, for you, will 2016 be the year of from a technology/digital standpoint?

Open data and privacy – the unsquared circle. The only problems worth tackling are the ones that you know will never have a solution.

 

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