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What is Data Literacy?
Over the past few weeks, our series has focused on unpacking computer literacy and digital literacy. We’ve found that computer literacy differs from digital literacy, which is the ability to communicate or find information on digital platforms. Whereas computer literacy measures the ability to use computers and to maintain a basic understanding of how they operate. However one can’t assume that exposure to computers and digital tools and automatically equates to the knowledge of how to use these effectively. This is where data literacy comes in. All of them are interlinked and in many ways require an understanding of each other because they are so closely linked. For instance, one can’t begin with data literacy without any knowledge and understanding of digital literacy. It is an underlying component of digital literacy due to the usage of technology to drive better outcomes.
According to Gartner 2019, Data literacy is defined as “ the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied…” This is the core definition but data literacy can be defined differently in line with the specific contexts. In a business context, Forbes defines data literacy as “Using data effectively for business actions and outcomes”.
If you’re at school, data literacy could just be how to read charts and graphs, drawing correct conclusions, and recognizing when data is misleading. In Mathematics, there is often a huge focus on data and problem-solving. Some of you might remember but this is where you are taught how to calculate the mean, mode, median, and range. Of course, it gets more complex once you enter the working space but essentially this is the most basic foundation of understanding data.
Why is Data Literacy important?
From a business point of view, data helps organizations to create digital business opportunities to improve efficiency, accuracy and help employees develop greater outcomes. Secondly, it helps give your company a competitive edge in this everchanging market.
However, schools and universities are often ill-equipped to solve the problem of data literacy holistically. The responsibility is often on you to ensure that your data literacy is up to date. People leave institutions and change workplaces every now again still being unable to use data literacy tools. For instance, Excel – a popular and relevant data literacy tool used in the workspace is only used by one in five people on the planet. And those who do use it, only a certain percentage truly know how to optimally use its features for data literacy.
A Data Literate person should be able to:
- Analyze using data
- Use data to communicate ideas and plans for new projects, products, or even strategies,
- Understand and create dashboards (spreadsheets, databases, visualizations for example),
- Make data-based decisions rather than based on intuition. Therefore, be able to make “fact” based decisions supported by data.
Data Literacy in the workplace
Over the years, data literacy has become a vital skill for organizations seeking to transform into data-driven teams. The issue is that not all staff members are trained to use data to make strategic decisions.
Organisations Need Data Literate Employees to:
- Communicate in a common language of data to better understand conversations about it
- Identify unexpected issues and come up with data-driven solutions
- Prevent making poor decisions due to data misinterpretation
- Have the framework and support to integrate new tools and ways of thinking into their everyday work lives
Becoming Data Literate
Get training and understand the importance of data literacy:
As an employee or future worker, you must understand how vital data literacy is to the success of the organization you work for. Once you understand why data is crucial for your business objectives, you will be less likely to resist gaining additional knowledge about how to interpret data. Unless you’re fortunate to work for a company that advances data literacy then you will have to take ownership of your own training so take advantage of free online courses. The Data Literacy project offers several free e-learning courses and the amazing thing is that training on critical thinking and data skills can be fun and casual. The more fun you make it, the more engagement you will see. Every employee must at least know how to ask:
- How the data was collected
- What can be learned from the data
- Consider the reliability of the information.