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October 30, 2017updated 20 Jul 2022 8:49am

Data illiterate: Just 1 in 5 workers have data skills for AI future

Workers are eager to learn and improve their data skills, but business leaders are failing to provide opportunities.

By Tom Ball

In this era of data explosion, it in unsurprising that data literacy and overall skills are becoming necessary, but a chasm is opening and it has becoming clear that very few have necessary mastery.

Actually only 17 per cent of workers enter the category ‘data literate’, a position in which the person is confident when handling and working with data.

Data skills are set to become more and more crucial with the arrival of disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence.

At the other extremity of this spectrum, a colossal 40 per cent of workers say they are overwhelmed by the flood of data that they are expected to use as part of their jobs.

These findings, from BI software firm Qlik also highlight a potential reason behind the lacking data skills, finding that only 23 per cent feel that everyone in their business was data literate.

The study appears to expose a core reason for lacking data literacy, as the low percentage of skilled individuals is contrasted by a strong will to learn. A strong majority of 65 per cent of workers would be keen to put time into improving their data skillset. These two statistics point to a lack of effort made by business leaders to encourage and nurture data skills.

Dan Sommer, Senior Director at Qlik, said: “Data literacy is as important as the ability to read and write. It adds weight to our arguments and helps us to make better decisions. And these skills are just as important in our everyday lives where we are overwhelmed with information in the news and social media. We’re dealing with a huge flood of data, but few have the skills to deal with it. In a post-fact world – full of fake news and data manipulations – it’s critical that we are able to interrogate facts and figures to get to the real truth.”

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An impressive 90 per cent of people who use data to do their jobs find that it is very beneficial, both in terms of doing their job, and in terms of how credible they are in the workplace. These findings form a strong indication that businesses will be benefitted by greater data education.

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Worryingly, 43 per cent feel that they have not been provided with the means to enhance their data skills, perhaps pointing to the root of this growing problem.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, you have the right to use and access data. But inequality is holding people, businesses and entire countries back. We want to start a movement to make sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed with data, and a revolution which will bring new insights and new abilities,” Sommer said.

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