Feb 25

Let's talk about data literacy

Data literacy is the ability to look, understand, think, create and communicate data as information. While kids everywhere in the world are expected to read textual information and be able to write at a certain age, we do not expect the same when it comes to data. And that is problematic.

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The amount of data created each day is mind boggling: there are estimates that 1.7MB of data is created every second by every person during 2020. In the last two years alone 90 percent (NINETY!) of the world's data has been created.

To not drown in this ocean of data, we need to learn to swim

This means: acquiring the skills to not just understand data, but also to be able to make sense of the data itself, by creating and communicating data as information.

Learning these skills takes effort and energy, just like reading and writing. Data literacy is just as important as reading and writing. But as long as the development of data literacy is not part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools just like reading, writing and math, the potential of data visualization in communication and knowledge exchange remains largely untapped.

Sure, most of us can read and interpret a bar chart or a pie graph, but are baffled and intimidated by complex data visualisations.

Break the vicious cycle

This creates a vicious circle: if people don't understand the intricacies of data visualisation, we don't develop innovative and powerfull ways to visualize data and share insight and information. And as long as we don't develop more complex visualizations, people will not feel the urgency to develop data literacy.

If a large part of society cannot interpret complex data visualisations, then we cannot communicate with images about such information at a high level.

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