Why do data literacy levels vary so much across different industries?

This article caught my eye due to the fact it states that the insurance and finance industry has an impressive 77.4% level of data literacy – which is significantly higher than other sectors including healthcare, real estate and even technical services. Why do you think data literacy varies so much across different industries?



  • It comes down to context; what is the world like for these professions?

    Healthcare professionals live in a world driven by people. Real Estate professionals deal in a world driven by property and people.

    Banking and Insurance professionals exist in a world driven by numbers.

    If you spent all day, everyday, immersed in kindergartens and childcare - you’d know every nursery rhyme and “dad joke” imaginable. If you were immersed in the world of food and fine dining - your sense of taste would be exemplary and your nose for fine wines enviable!

    Immersion brings familiarity and familiarity brings confidence, which is why I believe Financial and Insurance Sectors report higher levels of data literacy.

  • I also believe it's how we think about data. Data is information. All industries are driven by data, but I think the ones who see themselves as data driven are simply asking themselves more questions about their business and they are using data to help find answers. For example, a Retailer could simply ask, "How much am I selling?" That's using data. But what if they used data to help them answer questions like: "What should I be selling?" "Why is that item selling or not?" "Who is buying?" "Are there things about my buyers I didn't know, but if I did would help me find more buyers like them?"

  • I agree, industries are more born and bread in the use of data, like insurance and finance. These fields start with data from day one, whereas other organizations have had other imperatives at the front. Now that data is seen as the vital asset that it truly is, other industries and fields are starting to pick up speed. This is why data literacy is such an imperative: these organizations want to use data but are hitting walls in front of them as they realize they can't.

    I would love to dig into the study you shared that showed data literacy so high for those industries. Our own studies show it much lower for financial services, but I am guessing that is all built off of definition. We need to have an overall, comprehensive view, which includes the 4 levels of analytics (descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, prescriptive). Overall, it doesn't matter that level or industry, there is plenty of opportunity throughout, and even the most data literate have a lot of room for growth.

  • One thing to also be aware of is that in the insurance and finance industry, there are also a lot of people who fake it till you make it. It still amazes me how many adults don't understand the simple difference between a median or and average, or try to convince me we should load all of our data into HDFS because its just another database. Most of these people also claim that they "know data" and use it every day, but i'm not convinced. Just because you work with numbers, doesn't mean you understand the depth and potential that's available with proper analysis, as a lot of people like to have these kinds of things on their resume to get to that next level.

    ok this sounds more like a rant i guess, apologies.....i will say though that i feel the people in the insurance and finance industry, have an easier time adopting data literacy if given the chance because yes, their world is based around numbers.

    sadly i think it will take another generation or two before the world truly embraces the benefits of data and its potential. As our children grow up they will not have a choice to be data literate, and the ones who know how to harness the benefits, and be in positions of power to implement them will be the real winners. We are still in very infant stages, and there are a growing number of professionals who "get it", but in the grand scheme of the world, were not even close.

    a lot of organizations don't seem to want to invest in proper data literacy training or programs because its hard to see the immediate ROI. its easier to hire a data scientist, and have them create ETL's (that was a joke), but its true....If a company truly invests the time and energy to get its employees to the next level of data literacy, i feel it would be a noticeable difference within that organization, and that's what the difference will be...it has nothing to do with specific industry's.

Sign In or Register to comment.