What is Data Literacy?: Definition, Examples & Making Literacy a Priority

Data literacy. A skill once confined to analysts and data, is a must-have for professionals looking to take their business and decision-making to the next level. 

This was the subject of episode two of The Data & AI Podcast, where Waseem Ali, CEO at Rockborne and David Reed, Chief Knowledge Officer at DataIQ, discuss the concept of data literacy and how to implement it into an organisation’s data strategy. 

What is data literacy? 

So, what is Data literacy? At its core, Data literacy is the ability to read, understand, analyse, and communicate data as information. It encompasses the statistical, computational, and analytical skills required to derive meaningful information from data.  

In essence, being data literate means having the competence to ask the right questions, interpret data, make decisions based on that data, and communicate findings effectively to others. It’s not just about having access to data but knowing what to do with it. 

“[The traditional definition of data literacy] is important, but it only goes a certain distance. On top of just reading and understanding, we have adopted now a definition of literacy which talks about a shared mindset and shared behaviours that actually draw you towards things like evidence-based decision making.”

David Reed, Chief Knowledge Officer at DataIQ, via The Data & AI Podcast 

What is Data literacy in real life?: 

What is Data Literacy in Healthcare?: A hospital uses patient data to predict health outcomes and tailor treatments. By analysing trends in patient records, healthcare providers can identify risk factors for diseases and intervene earlier, improving patient care. 

What is Data Literacy in Retail?: A retail company analyses customer purchase data to understand buying patterns. This insight helps them stock products more effectively, plan marketing campaigns, and offer personalised recommendations, enhancing the shopping experience. 

What is Data Literacy in Education?: Educators use data from student assessments to identify areas where students are struggling and adapt teaching methods accordingly. This targeted approach helps improve learning outcomes and ensures that all students can succeed. 

Amazon Pickup & Return, used as an example to showcase "what is data literacy in real life?"

What is Data Literacy in Public Policy?: Governments analyse data from various sources to inform policy decisions. For example, traffic data can help in designing safer roads, while environmental data can inform climate change strategies. 

But when does data literacy become more complicated? Sometimes you can be literate enough with data and business to come to two different conclusions.  

“I’m a data person, but I’m also a CEO. And sometimes the data tells one story, but your gut and your experience is telling you something completely different. And that can be quite tricky.”

Waseem Ali, CEO of Rockborne, via The Data & AI Podcast 

What role do data leaders have to play in the role of AI? 

Data leaders play a hugely crucial role in AI. From strategy and operations to ethics and innovation, CDOs and Heads of Data are pivotal in shaping the direction of how modern companies implement and utilise artificial intelligence tools.  

“There are two sides that data leaders can support. One is critical thinking – really drilling into an issue, understanding the root causes, the opportunities, the data that you might need to assemble, so that when you’re challenged about it, you have an answer and people will trust that you’ve thought it through. And the second is have the confidence to engage with the technology, with the data and with your business in that way.”

David Reed, Chief Knowledge Officer at DataIQ, via The Data & AI Podcast 

As AI continues to evolve, the foresight, governance, and strategic input provided by data leaders will be crucial in harnessing its potential to transform industries and redefine the way we work. Their role is not just about managing data but about shaping the future of AI integration in a manner that is ethical, sustainable, and beneficial for all stakeholders involved.

Episode 2 of The Data and AI Podcast on quantifying the benefit of data can found HERE. 

If you want to learn even more about the topics discussed in this episode, then pick up David’s book ‘Becoming Data Literate’ HERE

If your company is having difficulty finding skilled data & AI professionals, you can rely on the global leader in data & AI recruitment, staffing and talent development to assist you with your hiring needs. Find out more by visiting the Harnham website. 

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