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ODI highlights shortcomings in government approach to data literacy

19/04/22

Mark Say Managing Editor

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Government needs to strengthen its approach to data literacy, with a more consistent interpretation and a better alignment of its initiatives in the field, according to a new report.

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has published the report, Data literacy and the UK government, saying government’s approach to the issue has implications for its own performance and the wider economy.

“Data literacy initiatives have a role in society, as well as the economy, as they can support individuals, groups and organisations to play an active role in our increasingly data dominated world,” it says.

The ODI highlights five key issues in the report, one being that while government takes data literacy seriously – as made clear in the National Data Strategy – it has no consistent definition which, combined with the number of spheres involved, can make it difficult to measure success in raising the level.

Secondly, there is not a defined distinction between data literacy and other similar skills, such as digital, AI or statistical literacy. Thirdly, the Government risks duplicating its work as several organisations are carrying out their own initiatives – with the risk compounded by the shortcomings outlined above.

Fourthly, there is a need for more data literacy support for non-specialists at general, basic and junior levels; and finally, more could be done to support data literacy in the wider population.

Issues to address

All these have prompted the ODi to identify three key issues that need to be addressed. One is to establish the clear definitions around data and other types of literacy, with a suggestion that this be based on its own forthcoming levels of data literacy.

The second is to make it easier to find resources on the different initiatives in government and other professions, perhaps grouped under a ‘data literacy’ heading, to help reduce duplication and fragmentation.

The third is for government to be more open about its own training and materials in the field to help build data literacy among the wider national workforce.

The ODI said the report is based on desk research with stakeholders in the issue.

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