A guide to Data Literacy

In today’s digital transformation era, it’s becoming imperative that organizations build and nurture data literacy across their workforces. However, for most organizations, knowing where to start when it comes to developing enterprise-wide data literacy is somewhat of a mystery.

Just as literacy is our ability to read, write and comprehend language, data literacy is our ability to read, write and comprehend data. More than that, it’s the ability to derive meaningful and useful information from data and to apply this to create better products, services and experiences.

Data literacy is not just the domain of a few teams across the organization – all workers from top to bottom will bring greater value to the business by better understanding how data is entwined in their everyday tasks, and being empowered to realise its full potential.

Some of the defining characteristics of organisations that are data literate are: 

  • Ability to use data whilst applying your own critical thinking 
  • Make data-based decisions rather than based on intuition and experience
  • Use data to communicate ideas and to help create new products, workflows, business models and strategies 
  • Understand the power of data visualisation

How does Data Literacy look at a global level? 

At DataU, we were curious to see what Data Literacy looks like at a global level so we better understand how we can help our customers here in the Kingdom. We have done a copious amount of research and have summarised our findings in this article.

Europe holds the highest Data Literacy score globally, with the UK, Germany and France among the most mature nations for corporate Data Literacy. This reflects a greater recognition that European business decision makers have for the value of data. 72 percent affirm that it is “very important”, compared with just 60 percent in Asia and 52 percent in the US. 

It also appears to positively impact the proportion of decisions that are made using data and encouragement for employees to become comfortable with data 

The Data Literacy scores for the US and APAC regions were slightly lower, but were not statistically different from each other. Singapore performed exceptionally for its region and is the most data literate nation globally. The US is experiencing a different situation, with nearly half of business leaders reporting that at least “quite a few” changes have been made to their companies’ use of data – the highest of all regions. However, organizational changes are not matched by investment. US business leaders report lowest levels of both data literacy training (30%) and only 16% report that their companies “significantly encourage” employees to become more comfortable with data. 

A Culture of Data Literacy

The study has indicated there are six levels to data literacy and they are as following:

Data Literacy Global Benchmark

Each level includes the following set of skills that your organization can be measured on: 


• Data Discovery

• Evaluating and Ensuring Quality of Data


• Data Collection

• Data Management and Organisation

• Data Manipulation

• Data Curation and Reuse

• Metadata Creation and Use

• Data Conversion (Format to Format)


• Data Analysis

• Data Interpretation (Understanding Data) 

• Identifying Problems Using Data

• Data Visualisation

• Presenting Data (Verbally) 

• Data Driven Decision Making

• Evaluating Decisions / Conclusions Based on Data

Data Personas 


Using the 6 levels of progression, the Global Data Literacy Benchmark has identified 3 cohorts of employees:

 • Those who need direction – the Curious

When asked to select which statement best describes them, the Curious selected

Level 1, Level 2 or indicated that none of the progression statements described them. 

• Those who are independent – the Confident

When asked to select which level of competency best described them, the Confident

selected Level 3 or Level 4. 

Those who can guide others – the Coaches

When asked to select which level of competency best described them, the Coaches

selected Level 5 or Level 6.

How do these personas look regionally? 

Data Literacy Global Benchmark

The data literacy profile is very similar across countries, with all regions noting between 8-12% of participants as Coaches, between 40-44% of participants as Confident and between 45-51% as Curious. 

• Australia and Canada have the greatest representation of Coaches, with 12% of respondents in this cohort. 

• India and United States of America have the lowest representation of Coaches, with 8% of responses in this cohort. 

• Around half of all respondents from Canada, India and United States of America are Curious, with United Kingdom and Australia having slightly lower levels of CuriousRespondents.

An Industry Perspective

Data literacy varies widely by industry, with significant differences between industries when it comes to the proportion of Curious, with Finance & Insurance (37%), and Public Administration & Defence (38%) showing lower levels of Curious compared to their Accommodation & Food Service Activities (63%) and Transport & Storage (58%) counterparts. 

Significant differences also exist between industries when it comes to the proportion of Coaches, with Professional, Scientific & Technical (17%) and Finance & Insurance (13%) having significantly higher proportion of Coaches than their Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (2%) and Electricity & Gas (3%) counterparts.

Where do we go from here?

Before you start implementing any processes to enhance your data literacy capabilities, it is fundamental that you understand where your company is at. You cannot create a Data Literacy Road Map without first understanding the level of literacy your company has. At DataU we have developed a benchmark that will asses your organisation against the global standard so your first understand your data literacy level across different levels in the organisation. We will assess against the 6 levels recognised globally in order to determine which % of employees are Data Curious, Data Confident and Coaches.