APPARENTLY data is the new oil and it’s big business. According to Fortune Business Insights, it’s estimated that the global big data market was worth about $37 billion in 2018 and is set to rise to a staggering $104bn by 2026.

However, it isn’t the data itself that’s valuable, it’s what we do with it that counts.

The use of data affects everyone of us every day as we click on yet another cookie acceptance button, book our next holiday, buy products online or manage our finances to name just a few areas of relevance.

Its impacts are, however, potentially far and wide as we look at shifts in health and education systems, disruption of sectors and also how our cities are run, as the implications of digital city twinning and smart technologies begin to emerge.

Scotland is determined to lead from the front in this important area and a key figure at the helm is the ever-inspiring Gillian Docherty OBE, chief executive of Data Lab, which is based in Glasgow in the University of Strathclyde’s Inovo building, and aptly within our flourishing Glasgow City Innovation District.

As part of its mission to help Scotland maximise value from data and lead the world to a data-powered future, the Data Lab team created DataFest which takes place across the country this month.

Another formidable partnership effort, it’s a two-week festival of data innovation and it’s all about showcasing Scotland’s leading role in data science and AI on an international stage. With over 60 events across Scotland, ranging from Urban Big Data Centre on the role of governments and universities to MacRoberts on data ethics and the law, the festival includes over 2,000 companies and seeks to reach some 5,000 people.

Talent development is also be a focus for the programme. One example would be the STATWARS Climate Change Challenge, being delivered by Primary Engineer in partnership with our Developing Young Workforce Glasgow & Circular Glasgow teams with the Skills Development Scotland Digital Fund, and backed by Weir, Scottish Engineering, Glasgow City Council, STEM and of course Data Lab itself.

The Challenge has been designed to enable young people from some of Glasgow’s schools to use data to inform changes they can commit to making in their daily lives to have the biggest possible impact on climate change.

I think this is particularly brilliant because it’s encouraging our young people to focus on STEM subjects, developing the meta skills they are going to require around use and presentation of data to educate and debate, empowering them to become the problem solvers of the future.

Challenge participants will get access to experts on data, climate change, the environment and info graphics to inspire their thinking, and it will culminate in November with the publication of a report sharing the key findings.

In parallel to DataFest, Scottish Government and Data Lab are also undertaking a consultation on The AI of the Possible: Developing Scotland’s Artificial Intelligence (AI). The AI Strategy Steering Committee - chaired by Les Bayne, head of Scotland, Accenture - has been tasked with establishing what Scotland needs to do to realise the potential of AI.

So what exactly is AI? In the spirit of keeping it simple: it’s a set of techniques – usually driven by data – which are used to allow computers to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as decision making, visual perception and speech recognition.

Given the potential impact for us all I would suggest it is worth taking some time to ensure your voice is heard as part of this consultation which concludes at the end of this month.

Alison McRae is senior director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce