Greetings from Sean on a crispy morning in mid winter Sydney After my last article I was wondering which new topic might be of interest and relevant for these times. And then a rather bright and intelligent individual suggested that I tackled the topic of Data Literacy. Given that I work/have worked in organisations that thrive on data literacy both internally and externally it seemed like an interesting concept to cover. So here I am. I will also point to a couple examples in current times where being Data Illiterate can cause harm to the greater society. I might add the bright and intelligent individual was also keen for me to tackle a nice sports oriented subject.


What is Data Literacy?

Firstly how would you define “Data Literacy”? According to Gartner, Data Literacy is defined as the ability to read, understand, create and communicate data as information. Much like literacy itself as data literacy focuses on the competencies involved in working with data. The first step to true data literacy is usually the ability to communicate, read and write about data in context.

From an organisational standpoint the first step for employees is the ability to communicate,  write and read about data in context. Then the employees (and not just Data Analysts/Scientists) need to critically assess the data, extract meaning from the numbers and gain actionable business insights from it. Not only should your organisation make decisions based on these facts when it possesses Data Literacy; but the Employees (End Users) are able to experiment with the said data to uncover new business opportunities and clarity about organisational performance. 


Why is Data Literacy important for your business?

It was predicted up to $200 million was to be spent on Data and Analytics products in 2020. But also predicted by the IDC (International Data Corporation) up to 50% of organisations will not have sufficient data literacy to effectively utilise data to benefit their business. Your organisation may collect volumes of data but you’re not using it properly why bother? Moving forward in the 21st century, data literacy will be as important as literacy was during the previous century. Employees will need to use data to influence their daily activities and business processes. If the data is used the right way it can help employees perform their job better, achieve business objectives and provide a valued contribution to the overall organisational performance.


Steps to achieve Data Literacy in your organisation

  1. Determine your organisation’s data literacy. Does Management propose business objectives that’s supported by data?
  2. Identify those within your organisation that are fluent in “data speak” and are naturals at articulating the data message to others
  3. Communicate why data literacy is relevant and important
  4. Ensure everyone has access to data. And ensure you’ve provided a way for everyone to access, manipulate, analyse and circulate/share the data
  5. Make sure the Managers of your organisation prioritise data insights in their own day-to day work. This will provide a “Lead by example” method for others within the team to follow. In time this emphasis will help your organisation create a data-specific culture.

The perils of not being data literate

Given our current state of affairs how many “official sources of data” are taken out of context or are heavily biased? Often times the same data results in differing opinions or is widely dismissed because it doesn’t support a certain context or narrative. This has certainly occurred and been omnipresent factor in the current pandemic. One wonders how much widespread damage could have been prevented had many sectors of the community be able to properly understand medical data? Understanding proper context is the key to Data Literacy. South Korea was declared one of the most dangerous countries for Covid-19 because of the large numbers testing positive for the virus. The same data was also used to compliment South Korea because the number of tests was almost one for every 150 people. But South Korea tested many more people than other countries as a percentage of their population, so it appeared they had more sick people. When in reality they did not. And a number of presenters ignored the context that the true picture was just not the numbers of positive tests.

So in closing I’ve just provided a few examples of why Data Literacy is important from a organisational and societal lens. What are your thoughts? Are you in a currently in a data literate organisation or one that’s completely opposite? Drop us a line here at Digital Fixation as we’re always eager to have a discussion.