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The data literacy of society is something that needs to be addressed, as data has become an integral part of our lives. We are being constantly bombarded with data, whether it is through social media, news, reports, or simply through text and numbers. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of data can be overwhelming, and many people still find it hard to make sense of it all. This is where data literacy comes in.

What is Data Literacy?

Data literacy is no more than the ability to read, interpret, create, and communicate data as basic or more complex information. It involves understanding data concepts, data types, data sources, and data analysis methods. Being data literate means having the capability to think critically about data and use it to make strong and sustained decisions.

To understand what data literacy essentially means, we can think about the following examples. A marketing team that is able to use customer data to identify trends and inclinations and develop targeted campaigns. A finance team that can analyze financial data to make better budgeting, management, and forecasting decisions. A healthcare professional able to use patient data as information for treatment decisions and health monitoring. In each of these scenarios, data literacy has a tremendous impact on the success and precision of the outcomes.

Why is Data Literacy Important?

Given the impact of data in the modern world, data literacy is an important asset for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. This might sound like an exaggeration, but if we focus on its benefits in a bit more detail, we clearly start to understand its real impact.

For individuals, data literacy allows people to upgrade their decision-making and to have a better and more accurate understanding of the world around them. By investing in their data literacy, individuals become capable of analyzing and interpreting data to make informed choices in their lives. For instance, a person can analyze their fitness data to choose the most adequate diet or exercise routine. Furthermore, data literacy can help individuals to think critically about data when addressing political and social issues.

For organizations, data literacy will improve efficiency, reduce costs and, once again, lead to more valuable decisions. When using data appropriately, organizations are more prone to identify areas for improvement and to optimize processes. This leads, most times, to cost savings and increased productivity. Additionally, data can help organizations in terms of strategy, operations, and investment. Ultimately, for businesses, data provides organizations with valuable insights into customer behavior, allowing them to develop a more personal customer follow-up and have more accurate inventory management, increasing overall customer satisfaction.

For society as a whole, data literacy helps promote transparency, accountability of stakeholders, and social evolution. For example, governments can use data to monitor and report on progress toward social and environmental objectives. Also, data can help identify areas of need and be used to inform and educate people about policy decisions, making them more open and building trust around all involved.

Hence, data literacy helps you identify trends, behaviors, and patterns that might not be visible otherwise, enhancing and developing your overall structure.

Defining and Promoting Data Literacy

That being said about the importance of data literacy, it may, nonetheless, be challenging to define. Considering data presents itself as a broad and complex topic, it is extremely hard to find a single definition of data literacy that comprises all contexts. These definitions can then fluctuate depending on the data types, the industry environment, the organization, and the level of expertise of individuals.

However, a clear and common language around data is vital to ensure all involved can communicate effectively and collaborate. It aids companies in avoiding confusion and misunderstandings and can promote transparency and involvement.

To define data literacy in a specific context, it will be helpful to consider the skills, tools, and knowledge needed for that context (data literacy skills will obviously differ between a marketing company and a healthcare institution). Notwithstanding, there are some crucial data literacy skills and abilities that are transversal to all contexts, such as:

  • Identifying and understanding data types:

    This is simply having knowledge (whether basic or profound) about the different types of data (e.g. quantitative, qualitative, structured, unstructured) and their specificities and characteristics.

  • Data analysis:

    Possessing the ability to use software and/or other tools to arrange, analyze and interpret data.

  • Data visualization:

    Constructing visual and simplified representations of data to communicate insights effectively and more accurately, based on a specific audience.

  • Critical thinking:

    The competence of analyzing and interpreting data with a critical mind, identifying patterns, outliers, behaviors, errors, and potential biases.

  • Communication:

    Conveying data insights effectively and in a clear manner to different stakeholders.

Once you have identified and defined data literacy in your specific context, you will be prepared to initiate the ensuing, but not least relevant, step of promoting it. As we have seen, a strong data literacy culture is of the utmost importance, and this can only be achieved by making this evident to everyone concerned. There are multitudes of means and ways to do this, including, but not limited to:

  • Training:

    Encourage and come forward with training and education for employees, customers, and other relevant contributors on data literacy concepts, abilities, and skills. This can be done through lectures, workshops, online courses, or seminars.

  • Tools and software:

    Provide tools and software that facilitate data analysis and improve visualization, making it more accessible and user-friendly.

  • Internal processes:

    Incorporate data literacy into all internal processes and procedures in an organization-wide effort. This will compel people to be more dexterous in dealing with data while enhancing their knowledge and confidence in the system.

  • Data culture:

    Foster a data-driven culture that respects and advocates data literacy and encourages employees to be curious and to explore data thoroughly. However you decide to do this, it is vital that you build an environment where data is seen as a valuable resource and a relevant asset.

Barriers to Data Literacy and How to Overcome them

Despite the benefits of data literacy being extremely clear, there are still significant barriers that prevent organizations and individuals from eventually becoming data literate. These obstacles may include:

  • Lack of awareness:

    Unbelievably, there are still many people who are unaware of what data literacy is and its importance.

  • Lack of training:

    Several people lack adequate training in various data literacy-related skills.

  • Fear of technology:

    The pacey evolution of technology globally is prone to frighten people and make them feel intimidated by it. This significantly reduces their trust in most aspects related to data literacy.

  • Complexity:

    Data, on several occasions, may be extremely complex and overwhelming, making it difficult to identify your needs accurately and when/where to start addressing them.

  • Lack of time or energy:

    Many people are time restrained and have difficulty devoting enough energy to become more data literate. This may turn into a vicious cycle since the lack of appropriate data literacy can be very time-consuming for an organization and its people.

To surpass these barriers, it is important to grant education, confidence, and resources that translate into data literacy, making it more accessible and less intimidating and demanding. This could include providing online resources, offering training programs, or creating a cooperative network of data literacy champions and advocates who can share knowledge, support each other and construct a solid base for the organization to build on.


To sum it up, data literacy is a must-have in today’s data-driven world. It enables individuals and organizations to make better and more informed decisions, improve efficiency, and promote trust, transparency and accountability. Defining, enhancing, and promoting data literacy is vital to ensuring that everyone is capable of communicating effectively and collaborating in an easier way. Gripping this concept is the first step in building a more data-literate society.

By providing adequate education and proper resources, that make data literacy more accessible and less scary, we can create a world where everyone speaks and understands the same “data” language. This leads to a more enlightened and empowered society that can use data to address simple and complex problems and achieve social progress.

Experience the benefits of improved data literacy and gain a competitive edge in business intelligence by leveraging the data governance services and solutions offered by Murdio. If you’re interested in learning more about how Murdio can help your organization achieve this, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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