Why “Data Literacy”
Data Literacy: Way out of the “Data Pandemonium”
This term is the cause of more confusion to humans than Einstein’s photoelectric effect. The term “data” is so so so often used these days that it seems to overwhelm the general audience, and perplex even the nerds.
Anything to do with data has an implicit reference to math, programming, smart people, and a big fat paycheck. But in this data age, can everyone really become Data Scientist?
No. But is everyone surrounded by oceans of data?
Yes. So, does “data”, “big data”, “data science” impact our lives?
Very definitely yes. It's a fact, simply look around your room to find your mobile, tablet, laptop, churning data, communicating with cloud-based servers, giving you weather updates, global news, usage analysis, etc. We live, breathe, generate, and sleep with data.
Now, if everyone cannot wear the tag of the sexiest job of the 21st century, why should a layperson think about becoming more aware of “data”?
This awareness about “data”, being able to analyze “data”, tells a story about “data” is what is called “Data Literacy”. One of the biggest pioneers of this concept is Jordan Morrow, Head of Data, Design, and Management Skills at Pluralsight Inc. Jordan has been a big proponent of the necessity of becoming data-literate for the global task force.
His studies have shown that organizations that have more aware employees make higher revenues, better sales closing numbers, and people with greater work satisfaction.
It is interesting to note that not everybody works directly or indirectly with data science, yet everyone experiences the ripples. Therefore folks can benefit by learning this “new language”, not only to make water cooler conversations but also to make sense of the current progress of this field and understand its implications.
A rough analogy of this all-sweeping wave of “Data Science” is the idea of modern centralized governments. About two centuries back, after decolonization, nationalist governments started forming with democracy as their founding principle.
Laws and rights were written down in the constitution, and bureaucracy became the hot seat of power and prestige. More so the common populace who proved their worthiness could now gain access to it, having a royal bloodline was not a prerequisite anymore.
What happened as a result was that thousands of people started vying for a chunk of this pie, even the ones without any political knowledge or understanding of common laws.
Yet, there were, are, and will be only so many personnel required to function in these government entities.
And the laws hold across the entire nation and have implications for every citizen. Thus, despite not being able to participate in making the laws, the entire population will still be subject to it.
Currently, “data science” is like this ruling body. It is gaining traction, growing exponentially, and its reach is expanding by the minute.
However, there isn’t a constitution of sorts that will dictate the fundamentals on which this field is based. I am sure with time there would be a consensus, or guiding directions as to what are the core values, ideals of “Data Science”.
But for now, we can gain awareness to gain “data literacy”, as coined by Jordan which might be a counterpart of political literacy, tyrannical awareness, or corruption intuition index to the above analogy.
The aim of this article was to make the claim that it is essential to become data literate for working professionals to thrive in the Data Age. In subsequent posts, I would discuss what exactly Data Literacy is, and some actionable ways of making progress.
Data Science, Blogger, University of Maryland '21, IITK'19