A data scientist’s views on data literacy


How does data literacy affect the success of an organization?

Data literacy is an essential component of the larger concept of data democratization. Data democratization affects the success of organizations in at least five dimensions:

Information about data – Employees grow in their awareness of the ubiquity and the types of data that the organization uses (or can use).

data Relevance – Employees begin to see the connection between the data and their own role in the company.

data Knowledge – employees learn to read, work with, analyze and argue with role-appropriate data sources.

data Science – most (if not all) employees teach them how to gain insight and derive understanding from data (pattern discovery, pattern recognition, pattern exploration and pattern utilization).

data Critical – Employees ultimately know that inability to use and analyze data is devastating companies (and possibly their own career life).

Do you think companies really understand the importance and offer educational opportunities for data literacy to their employees?
Many organizations are now at the time, but many more are not. Fortunately, such programs are popping up everywhere. Those who are not yet on board should see all the benefits that can come from having a data literate workforce. I have a direct personal experience with this. Several years ago, I was encouraged by a small company (under 100 employees) to present a two-day training course in computer science, which actually covered the five dimensions of data democratization that I just described. What was impressive about this event was that business owners demanded that all of their employees attend, not just the technical and business people. One of the most enthusiastic attendees was the front office receptionist who loved all the new things she learned. These business owners really understood the importance of this educational opportunity for computer literacy for their employees and for their business. The validation came a few years later when they successfully sold their business to a larger company.

What cultural changes need to be made in the community to tackle data literacy?

First, the community must realize that data has value. What I mean is that data is often presented as something invasive, destructive or overly complicated for the common person. Second, there must be more positive examples, e.g. Data hackathons for social good, business analytics and palm examples (our smartphones). Data should be promoted in education, news, business communication and normal conversation. Third, we need to discuss how companies create jobs, markets, opportunities and new benefits for society with data. Fourth, the education system must introduce numbers, statistics, data, pattern detection and scientific hypothesis generation from evidence much more intensely, consciously and creatively in all courses and curricula (at an age appropriate level, of course), because the world is digital and it is only becoming more digitally.

Farewell tanks

I offer this reflection. Data permeates our daily lives through every conceivable digital technology, handheld device, business and personal activity. Through data, the world can be calculated. The focus of data literacy should not be on math, algorithms or engineering. Instead, the focus should be on demonstrating that data science and analytics are universally appealing, data literacy is available, and data flatness is achievable for everyone. Democratizing data assets and data literacy is important for all organizations. Teams of well-known professionals have the power to understand several different data sources, to understand what the data tells them, and to create new results, successes and value for any organization. Data literacy is not a math skill – it is a life skill.



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