Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Nell Watson

Eleanor ‘Nell’ Watson is a machine intelligence researcher who helped to pioneer Deep Machine Vision at her company QuantaCorp, enabling fast and accurate body measurement from just two photos. She is chair & Vice-Chair respectively of the IEEE’s ECPAIS Transparency Experts Focus Group, and P7001 Transparency of Autonomous Systems committee on AI Ethics & Safety. She also chairs, a community teaching pro-social behaviours to machines. Bima MD Holly Hall chose her as her digital hero and here she passes on the honour.

Who is your digital hero?

The gallant Charles Line of Wild and Free Natural Organic Food in Rugby.

What has he done to win hero status?

He has single-handedly kept hundreds of families fed during the ongoing crises, going through heroic levels of effort, despite putting himself at serious risk of infection, or lapsing into utter exhaustion.

Charles has enjoyed a long history in tech, and looked forward to moving into something more practical for a change, running an organic food store.

Instead, he has found himself knee-deep dealing with desperate families who need food. He has had to dismantle his store, to turn it into a delivery depot, to safely bring essential groceries to so many.

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

Initially, orders were taken over the phone, or by visiting the shop with a list. But there were simply so many orders, and a risk of people contaminating the shop, that he had to try something different.

Charles decided to create a whole new digital ordering and stocking mechanism from scratch, using his formidable experience in full-stack tech. He built and launched this in just a few days, whilst simultaneously staging and delivering groceries to a huge number of people.

An ordering system may not be sexy, but it has literally helped to keep very vulnerable people alive and fed. During a time of panic and desperation, Charles kept his head, and demonstrated amazing public leadership and human decency.

I am so very proud of Charles Line, a genuine digital hero.

What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

I would love to see a hero find ways to help bridge the digital divide, to make technology more inclusive for those who adapted to it in an earlier age.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I am very proud of the team that I lead at the IEEE to create a 35,000 word standard certification framework for the Ethics of Transparency (ECPAIS) in only 6 months, a veritable Manhattan Project in terms of the scale of issues which we tackled in record speed.