What is data literacy and why is it important


For more and more businesses the ability leverage data – to increase operational efficiency and to improve decision making – is gaining executive attention and attracting data.

This makes data literacy an increasingly important capability

What is data literacy?

Data literacy is the ability to derive meaningful information with data.

Traditionally regarded as the purview of IT, data literacy is now increasingly becoming a critical job skill for every knowledge worker.

Everybody that works with data, and that makes decision based on data, needs to have an understanding of the underlying, fundamental data management competencies – such as data governance, data quality and data modelling – that allow them to assess whether data is fit for purpose.

This does not mean that everybody needs to be an expert – literacy is about building a common understanding.

Why is data literacy important?

The increasing reliance on data means that almost every worker is either a producer or a consumer of data.

Not all jobs require hard core data science skills, fortunately, but the ability to deliver trusted and understand data context is critical

Each producer of data, for example, should be conscious of the impact of poor quality data on downstream consumers. The concept of “garbage in, garbage out” is more relevant than ever as companies invest in advanced analytics and AI.

For data consumers, the ability to trust data goes beyond data quality and may include a basic understanding of lineage, the context of data, and the ability to interpret basic figures.

Other data literacy skills may include:

  • The ability to think critically about information
  • Recognising misrepresented or misleading data
  • The ability to communicate a data “story

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

A data driven strategy can only succeed if the culture of the organisation allows it. Education provides a common language and understanding to shift the culture of the organisation to become data-centric.

Ultimately, data literacy must help to bridge the gap between business and IT data custodians by reducing the communication gap that often inhibts value.

The data train continues to gather stream. Data literacy is the ticket to hop aboard.

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