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  • Writer's pictureCristina Ferrero Castaño

Spain already has its first "Chief Data Officer" to respond to the challenges of the data economy.

The government appoints Alberto Palomo Lozano, ex-Huawei and ex-Iberdrola, as head of data and puts him in charge of the Data Office, a body under the Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence.

Cinco Días

July 20, 2021

The Government has appointed Alberto Palomo Lozano as Spain's first Chief Data Officer. A position that already exists in other countries such as France, the US, the UK and Canada. Palomo will be responsible for setting up the Data Office, under the Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence, which will have to respond to the main challenges of the data economy, defining the legal and political frameworks for sharing and governance.

The office should establish principles and standards to ensure that data flows across sectors, ensuring privacy and respect for citizens' rights, the government said on Tuesday. The Executive assured that the body was created with the aim of becoming a key agent to promote a framework that guarantees data sovereignty in Spain and at the European level, promoting the construction of data centres, as well as the processing and storage of this data in Spain.

Specifically, the functions of the Data Office include the design of strategies and frameworks for data management, the creation of spaces for data sharing between companies, citizens and public administrations in a secure manner and with governance, and the massive use of data in the productive sectors of the economy through big data and artificial intelligence technologies.

"This figure will be very relevant to establish a governance of the data ecosystem in Spain, where the public and private sectors can collaborate in trust to deploy the Spanish data economy," the government insisted.

The new data officer will also be in charge of representing Spain in GAIA-X, the European cloud project that is being created at EU level. "The Data Office will support, together with the GAIA-X regional hub in Spain, the deployment of sectoral data services, with special emphasis on the tourism, health, agri-food and sustainable mobility sectors," they said.

In terms of training, Palomo Lozano holds a PhD in theoretical physics from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and CSIC, and has a background in data mining and statistical learning. He worked at Iberdrola and Huawei; at the latter, in a deep learning R&D lab in the Canadian subsidiary, where he worked on hardware design to optimise the training phase of neural networks based on artificial intelligence.

Carmen Artigas, Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence, had already announced a year ago that she would appoint a data officer to drive the government's data strategy.

Following the announcement of the appointment, a number of technology companies have welcomed the appointment. In a statement, the CEO of Shotis, Raúl Martinez, said that "having a figure to orchestrate a national strategy for the management and use of data is a great boost to help our companies and public administrations to adopt methodologies that allow them to extract the greatest possible value from data and, ultimately, to be more competitive as a country".

He added that "in the digital economy, information is the most important resource and this appointment will help to consolidate the digitisation of business and public administration processes and, therefore, foster a true data culture in Spain".

The general director of the consultancy firm Quilk for Spain and Portugal, Rafael Quintana, pointed out that data will be "a pillar of the Spanish economic recovery" and it is "vital" to have a figure that harmonises the strategy.

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