Data Literacy

Data Literacy as a core skill

Employees are needed who are capable of collecting, managing, evaluating and applying data in a targeted way. The main focus here is not on technical specialists - data scientists - but above all on employees of the specialist departments. They need to be in a position where they can work and make decisions with the support of data.

This includes formulating data-related questions, to critically scrutinise data and to interpret data analyses properly in the their respective work areas. The Data Literacy required for this describes the core skills that these employees must have today, in order for the digital transformation to succeed. Data Literacy includes a range of individual skills - from creating basic awareness to ethical and legal issues.

Canadian researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada have identified a total of 22 competencies with associated skills, knowledge and tasks and grouped them into 5 competence fields.

  • Conceptual Framework

    • Introduction to Data
  • Data Collection

    • Data Discovery & Collection
    • Evaluating and Ensuring Quality of Data ans Sources 
  • Data Management

    • Data Organization
    • Data Manipulation
    • Data Conversion
    • Metadata Creation and Use
    • Data Curation, Security & Re-Use
    • Data Preservation
  • Data Evaluation

    • Data Tools
    • Basic Data Analytics
    • Data Interpretation (Understanding Data)
    • Identifying Problem Using
    • Data Visualization
    • Presenting Data (Verbally)
    • Data Driven Decision Making (DDDM)
  • Data Application

    • Critical Thinking
    • Data Culture
    • Data Ethics
    • Data Citation
    • Data Sharing
    • Evaluating Decisions based on Data

Data Literacy competence model

A competence model can be derived from this that encompasses interlinked content and process areas. In turn, these require know-how in the company.

Data Literacy Kompetenzmodell


At its core, the employees need to have the skill to

  • capture and collect data
  • manage and adapt data
  • analyse data
  • professionally evaluate data
  • present and visualise data
  • derive measures

Strategic Goal: Building Data Literacy

So far, however, these data skills are not sufficiently present in companies. According to a study by the Wharton School and the IHS Markit Institute, 92 per cent of corporate decision-makers appreciate the importance of a data-competent workforce - but less than 20 per cent support their employees in strengthening their data skills.  

Companies are under pressure to invest more in human resources rather than in technologies and solutions, as has been the case in the past. They need to hire employees who possess these skills. Or choose the much more realistic and sensible approach in light of the prevailing shortage of skilled staff in this area, and ensure that the existing workforce becomes data-competent through appropriate training and education measures.

5 Tips on the Path towards Greater Data Literacy

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