Data Literacy Vs. Data Fluency

Data Literacy


The velocity of data is increasing and will always increase. Therefore, the need for data literacy is increasing and will always increase. All other things being equal, there is a significant difference between being literate and being fluent. To create value for your business you need to think strategically about sources and uses of data and understand how data is turned into action. Let’s review.

You Need to Be Data Literate, Not Data Fluent

All other things being equal, there is a significant difference between being literate and being fluent. A literate executive will recognize the need for a desired outcome. For example, “We need to understand how these sales numbers are related to these categories.” They might even know that a simple linear regression is the proper mathematical technique to accomplish the task. But most importantly, being data literate would enable this executive to ask the right questions and seek the right assistance to accomplish the goal.

Someone fluent in mathematics, statistics or data science would look at the problem quite differently. They would quickly and clearly understand that a simple linear regression was the appropriate technique to accomplish the task, but someone fluent would consider specific methodologies in ways that literate executives might not. For example, “Is the least squares approach sufficient to achieve the desired outcome for this linear regression or will a least absolute deviations approach yield a better outcome?”

To put it another way, you don’t need to speak French to recognize that the email you just received is written in French. You just need to be literate to the point where you know that Google Translate is not going to get the job done and you need a highly skilled French translator to help you interpret and respond to the communication.

Data Literacy Basics

Before you can turn data into action, you must collect it. Then, you can do three basic things: transform, learn and predict. In practice, you don’t need to know how to do any of this; you just need to know exactly what each step is and what it is for.

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Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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