THE NEW SCRIBES

If 2019 was the year of the "citizen data scientist", according to the Dice.com website 2020 will be the year of the "citizen data engineers", but why does the idea of citizenship arise in the big data? The point of view of Lauriane Gorce, Scientific Director of the Institute of Technology for the Human Being in Montreal.

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The formula "citizen data scientist" appeared in 2016 and is said to be the brainchild of an American consulting firm (1) that wanted to grasp a term that strikes a chord with one of the major issues facing digital companies: having access to colossal amounts of data is only of interest if they are exploitable by data science experts who are known as data scientists.  That is where the problem lies, since demand far outstrips supply. From this came the idea of creating, in a way, an intermediate rank in this expertise composed of men and women who are not specialized in data science but who would be able to provide basic data analysis through intuitive tools. The experts would focus only on the complex and crucial issues for the company, while the citizen data scientists would handle the more common tasks, just as the citizen data engineers would help to structure data flows within the company.

It is clear that it is in the interest of companies to have a less expensive workforce to support the essential work of data scientists, but why use the term "citizen"? Is it a sleight of hand or is there a relationship with the inhabitants of the City in the political sense of the term?   Probably both, but it is undeniable that intuitive tools can open, at least in part, the "black box" of AI algorithms and mega-data. It would then become possible to better understand them by analyzing the different stages of their implementation, from data preparation to the visualization of results, including the choice of model. This would lead us to realize immediately the importance of human intervention in the final result (2). There is therefore a real democratic stake in the appearance of these citizen data scientists or engineers.

Provided that they do not become a new caste. Part of the population today, as we know, has very few basic digital skills and it goes without saying, that in a democracy, citizenship must not be two-tier, one capable of reading the hieroglyphics of the digital age, the other content with its uses.


(1) Gartner Inc.

(2) For more information, read the Study on Illectronics, the first issue 1780 of INSEE (October 2019): in France, in 2019, "illectronics [...] concerns 17% of the population". Regarding Quebec, the Institut de la Statistique du Québec produces similar statistics. Optic Technology is working on digital inclusion.