Citizenship skills are abilities that citizens should possess for effective participation in society and responsible citizenship. For example, ability to swim can be seen as a citizenship skill in a country with thousands of lakes. But what new skills are required from citizens today?
The digital society and its services require good digital skills from citizens, and according to the Digital Skills Report (FI) published in 2023, 73% of Finns possess basic digital skills. The importance of data is also constantly growing, so next, we need to develop data literacy as a new citizenship skill.
Data democratisation integrates data into our daily lives
We are at a turning point regarding the availability and use of information: previously, data resources were proprietary, closed environments of companies, but now more and more companies are sharing data externally. Data is returned to circulation, and, in turn, it can be enriched with new sources of information to create something new.
So far, specialised teams have been used for data work, but as technologies advance, more people can use data – if our data literacy is sufficient. AI solutions, such as ChatGPT and Copilot, democratise data work. The purpose of data democratisation is to enable the use of data for everyone, support decision-making, help solve problems, and promote innovation. This is also the goal of the European Union’s new Data Act. The next step for the success of data democratisation is the development of data literacy.
Good data literacy leads to informed decisions
The concept of data literacy, which emerged in the 90s, is the ability to read data, work with it, analyse it, and communicate findings based on it.1 Data literacy includes various skills and capabilities necessary in different situations and roles. Ethical understanding of data usage has also become one aspect of data literacy.
In decision-making, data analysis skills are particularly emphasized: data is often processed into information by someone else, so it is important to understand how data has been transformed, what factors have influenced its processing, and who has processed the data. A person with good data literacy can question data and ask critical questions.2 Critical thinking also involves awareness of context, common decision-making biases, and how people can interpret information differently.
Data literacy is beyond the reach of corporate metrics
Data literacy is rarely assessed in different workplaces, even though data is used in every profession today. For example, teachers use over 30 different forms of data literacy in their work, either consciously or unconsciously.3
Many roles involve tasks such as searching for information from a company’s own systems and understanding whether the data is correct, relevant, and up-to-date. Data literacy is seamlessly integrated into various job tasks, but there are no precise requirements for it unless the job specifically focuses on data tasks. Data literacy is currently beyond the reach of corporate metrics.
Training is needed for data literacy, especially in areas relevant to different job tasks. Some Finnish companies have already created their own learning paths for employees.4 The UK has decided to train government employees more deeply in data-related topics, aiming to raise national data capability.5
Let’s keep everyone afloat – also in data
We have all become data handlers, which adds to the burden of cognitive work. Good data literacy makes our daily lives, stress management, and decision-making easier, and it gives us maturity to face new things with curiosity, skepticism, and reflection. It gives us confidence and new opportunities in life, just as literacy did 200 years ago.
Setting a benchmark for national data literacy will be challenging, but the goal is for everyone to master the basics and stay afloat in the digital society. Now the only thing left is to set the benchmark.
The heart of a flourishing welfare society are its people and businesses. Digitalisation is an essential means for serving them in a world that is aging, lacking workforce, and fighting climate change.