So you’re not planning on becoming a data scientist or analyst anytime soon, but is it still important to become data literate? What does data literacy even mean?
We all know that literacy is foundational for one to be a functioning member of society. However, there no longer exists a time were merely knowing how to read and write is enough to survive in the age of information. As all things evolve, even literacy has evolved. When computers became affordable society soon followed and become computer literate. Schools began offering classes to teach computer literacy and libraries offered the community access to computers. Without being computer literate one would find difficulties getting a job, but now we face a new type of literacy we must learn and that is data literacy.
First it is important we all understand what data literacy is. For this I turn to the Data Pop Alliance who defines data literacy as “The desire and ability to constructively engage in society through and about data”. I chose this definition for data literacy not only because of the research behind it, but I believe it is important to stress the engagement in society through and about data, rather than a specific set of skills or knowledge one must have.
Engaging in a society through and about data is critical today because data is currently being created and stored at rapid rates. This data is then often used to manipulate us or persuade us to one’s argument.
No longer are there industries that haven’t been touched by data presence. Even more “soft skilled” departments in business such as marketing and human resource have found new ways to make data an integral part of their business and gain a competitive advantage. However, businesses aren’t the only ones using data, traditional industries such agriculture now heavily depend on data to function (see this article on John Deer for more information).
Once one becomes data literate, there are more benefits than merely getting a job and adding value to the industry one is in. By being data literate, one can easily interpret how data is used to persuade our thinking. Everything from political agendas, advertisements, to leasing a car, knowing how to interpret and engage with data can improve your livelihood by allowing you to make rational judgments about the information that is presented to you.