Five minutes with: Emer Coleman, technology engagement lead for Co-op Digital

By Shaun Gomm | 22/03/2017

A former member of the Government’s Digital Service unit and ex-digital projects director at City Hall in London, Emer Coleman is an experienced digital leader within both the public and private sector and an expert in open data.

Now living in Manchester as technology engagement lead for Co-op Digital, Emer took the time to sit down with us ahead of her keynote address at Camp Digital on May 24th.

Emer  Coleman

At Camp Digital, your talk is entitled ‘The End of the Technology Affair’ – what can audience members expect and why is this topic so important right now?

The biggest thing I’m hoping is for the audience to be challenged and taken out of their comfort zones when it comes to what they think about technology. I think there is a real lack of ethics in the sector right now, not all of it intended, but most of it ignored because we are so fascinated with the digital models we are seeing. 

Looking at the gig economy for example, we are all completely caught up in this new way of making money or working, but no-one seems to be paying too much attention to the wider impact.

Take Airbnb, yes this is an innovative concept, but when you look at how this model impacts cities, the availability of rental properties or even homelessness, there are lots of questions that don’t seem to get asked.

We need to look much more deeply at the impact of technology on the world and not just accept it as an innovation and move on.

You have extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. What is the biggest digital transformation you’ve witnessed or been part of throughout your career?

The digital transformation of our public services is one of the biggest and most important projects this country has undertaken, so working with the Government Digital Service is probably one of the most significant projects I’ve worked on.

Making governments more open and accountable and improving access to public sector data is also a huge change for the country, politically and culturally, as people become more demanding over how their information is stored and used – or how the Government deals with data.

Working as director of digital projects in City Hall was a huge challenge; it was in the very early days of the open data movement so being at the forefront of such a significant turning point was really exciting to witness and be a part of.

You’re currently the technology engagement lead for Co-op Digital, are there any exciting developments / projects you’re working on that you can share with us?

We’re always looking for ways to do things differently at the Co-op and tackling the digital economy is no different. Our main focus is ensuring that the rewards of this new economy are distributed more equally in wider society.

Our new project “The Federation” is an open community of digital businesses and innovators in the heart of Manchester and is forged in the values of the Co-operative.

When it's completed The Federation will have co-working desks, office suites, meeting rooms a coffee shop and event space. We're looking forward to being part of the wider Tech scene in the North.

What are you most looking forward to at Camp Digital?

Any event that gets like minded people together and challenges them to look at things differently or encourages collaboration is a great idea. I love having the opportunity to meet other people in the digital and design community and see what other people are up to.

Camp Digital will provide some great opportunities for creative thinking and give some new ideas that we can take away and implement in our own work.

Emer Coleman’s keynote address will take place on Wednesday, May 24 from 11.10am to 12pm in the Great Hall.

To find out more about Co-op Digital visit:
Or follow them on Twitter: @CoopDigital

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