Thorunn Egilsdottir
Corporate Communication Manager
30th January 2024

Data Literacy and how to enhance it?

Data literacy is becoming increasingly important in today’s digital age. It refers to the ability to understand, interpret and communicate with data effectively. In a world where data is constantly generated and used to inform decision-making, having data literacy skills is crucial for individuals and organizations alike. What aspects matter in this field? We spoke to Bernard de Villepin, Data & AI Manager and Business Coach at PwC Luxembourg who provided insight as well as five useful tips for our readers who want to enhance their data literacy.

1. What is data literacy, why does it matter, and what are examples of good data literacy

Data literacy is a pivotal component in tomorrow’s data-driven landscape. Broadly defined, it is the ability to read, understand, create, and effectively communicate data as information. This skill is becoming fundamental for employees at all levels and across all departments, as it involves performing job roles while handling data in new and efficient ways. 

It's crucial to recognise that data literacy has two facets. Firstly, there's the proficiency in using data: reading, working with, analysing, and communicating data. Secondly, there's the responsibility aspect: adhering to data regulations, ensuring data quality and protection, following data governance rules. 

Practically speaking, data literacy manifests in various ways.  

You can ask yourself:  

  • Can I automate some of my tasks using data?  

  • Can I enhance my services or products for clients by leveraging data about them?  

  • Can I improve my decision-making using data? 

Data literacy enables us to conduct more effective risk assessments, strategic analyses, and customer segmentation, among other tasks, using reliable data. Ultimately, data literacy empowers employees to utilise data effectively, thereby improving customer experiences, operational efficiencies, and compliance with regulatory standards. As industries evolve, the significance of data literacy as a key enabler in business is set to increase exponentially. 

2. Data is in constant evolution. How do successful managers ensure data is accessible to an entire organisation?

Addressing the evolution of data and its accessibility across an organisation lies at the core of my expertise. This is a complex issue, encompassing various roles, people, and processes. Let's take a step back to understand this better. In many Luxembourgish companies, only a handful of individuals are tasked with managing data. They frequently encounter challenges in making data accessible throughout the organisation, such as issues with data quality, limited data culture, insufficient data management, and ongoing digital transformations lacking a coherent data strategy. This situation leads to business managers having suboptimal access to reliable and secure data. It falls upon data stakeholders – such as Chief Data Officers, Data Factory Leaders, Data Protection Officers – to ensure that data is accessible, trustworthy, and protected across the company. 

However, it's important to note that perfect data processes, governance, and architecture aren't prerequisites for benefiting from data literacy. Improving data management is a journey, not a destination. Anyone handling even the smallest amount of data can begin to think about how to perform their tasks more efficiently by leveraging data in their day-to-day activities. Finally, it's worth highlighting the progress made in Luxembourg over the past years. There's a better understanding of data and its applications among companies here. Observing this advancement across our clients fills me with optimism for the future. 

3. How do most companies boost data literacy and what are the pitfalls?

Effective strategies for boosting data literacy often include comprehensive training programmes, mentorship, and the deployment of user-friendly tools that helps use, automate, or visualise data. Training programmes must be tailored to various skill levels as not everybody is ready to develop a data-driven mindset. Mentorship and peer learning foster a collaborative environment where knowledge is shared, ensuring a cohesive data upskilling process across the organisation. Additionally, integrating user-friendly tools demystifies data, making it accessible to a broader range of employees. 

However, this data democratisation journey is not without its challenges. Allocating sufficient time for employees to adapt to new data-driven methods is crucial. It allows them to explore and apply data in their roles effectively. Overloading staff with too much information or tools without training is quickly counterproductive, leading to confusion and disengagement. Practical application of skills learned is vital to reinforce training and align it with daily tasks. Furthermore, any initiative to enhance data literacy must be in harmony with the organisation's culture and actively supported by top management and a clear strategical vision. A holistic approach that balances skill development with the practical application and cultural integration is key to fostering a successful data-literate workforce.  

4. What are the current data literacy levels in Luxembourg-based businesses? How do we compare to the rest of Europe?

Presently, there's no specific report publicly available detailing the exact levels of data literacy in Luxembourg-based businesses compared to the rest of Europe. The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) from the European Union mention digital literacy, in which Luxembourg is ranked 6th, yet this doesn't directly correlate with data literacy. To put things in perspective, high-tech literacy has been constantly evolving for the past 50 years. There was computer literacy then internet & software literacy, then digital literacy, then data literacy today and AI literacy tomorrow.  

However, data literacy insights from the US and UK markets mirror trends observed in Luxembourg. When asking leaders which skills have become most important for their team or department in the past five years, three of the top five fastest-growing skill sets across the UK and the US were data skills: business intelligence (41%), data science (37%), and basic data literacy skills (30%). 

Considering Luxembourg's status as a developed, high-income country with a strong focus on finance and technology, it's reasonable to infer that data literacy levels are relatively correct, especially in sectors like banking and finance. After all, 54% of leaders in the UK and the US believe their organisation has a data literacy skill gap that needs to be addressed. 

Finally, we at PwC noticed that the landscape of data literacy in Luxembourg has evolved considerably over the last decade, fostering our optimism for the future. With democratised artificial intelligence on the horizon, the importance of reliable data for AI success will be impossible to avoid, suggesting an impending shift towards AI literacy, underpinned by data literacy. 

5 useful tips to enhance your data literacy skills? 

  1. Begin by understanding fundamental data concepts such as data types, basic statistics, and data visualisation principles. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to test, try and discover new ways to deal with data. 
  3. Continuously deepen your data understanding.  
  4. Cultivate a habit of using data to make informed decisions. This involves critically evaluating information, identifying patterns, and drawing insights from data. 
  5. Engage with a community of peers, and experts, who can provide diverse perspectives and insights. If you think the world is moving too fast, you will be surprised by the speed that democratised artificial intelligence will bring to every aspect of your businesses.

About the blog:

There is an urgent need for rapid transition to global sustainability. Business and industry have enormous social and environmental impacts. "Why does it matter?" is a bi-monthly blog that aims to elucidate this important topic through the eyes of our experts. 

Don't miss out our experts' practical tips for your daily life and be part of the positive change.