What Is Data Literacy?
There are many definitions of data literacy, but most center on the ability to interpret and communicate about data. Deloitte defines it as “the ability to read, work with, analyze and use data ethically to solve challenges, drive innovation and create value collaboratively.”
A 2022 Data Foundation report refines the concept to “describe an individual’s ability to read, write, and communicate with data in context.”
The reason context matters so much is that in the modern world, almost anyone can be an end user of data, says Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation and one of the authors of the report.
“But if you can’t appropriately apply the data analysis to the context that matters, we’re not using it right,” he says. “We want to make sure that context is appropriately matched for decision-making.”
Proper context includes not using state-level data for analysis aimed at counties or ensuring that the intended audience is the right one to receive a particular analysis of data. “The context of the type of data that you have for a particular question really does matter,” Hart says.
Why Is Data Literacy Important to Data Governance?
Data literacy is crucial to state and local governments’ management and use of data for several reasons, experts say. Data literacy is important, Hart says, “because it helps us connect between the decision that is being made and the meaning for what it has done.”
For example, he says, if a state or local government official wants to modify a program, it should make that decision based on the best available information, which may be in different sources and may include scientific or statistical information, descriptions of the problem, data about citizens’ living conditions and more.
“In order for our decision-makers and all of those who support decision-makers to make those decisions using data and evidence, we need to be able to combine the right kinds of information to support those decisions,” Hart says. “How do you do that? You become more data literate.”