Data Literacy for the Public Sector: Lessons from Early Pioneers in the U.S.

Paper by Nick Hart, Adita Karkera, and Valerie Logan: “Advances in the access, collection, management, analysis, and use of data across public sector organizations substantially contributed to steady improvements in services, efficiency of operations, and effectiveness of government programs. The experience of citizens, beneficiaries, managers, and data experts is also evolving as data becomes pervasive and more seamlessly integrated within decision-making processes. In order for agencies to effectively engage in the ever-changing data landscape, organizational data literacy capacity and program models can help ensure individuals across the workforce can read, write, and communicate with data in the context of their role.

Data and analytics are no longer “just” for specialists, such as data engineers and data scientists; rather, data literacy is now increasingly recognized as a core workforce competency. Fortunately, in the United States several pioneers have emerged in strategically advancing data literacy programs and activities at the organizational level, providing benefits to individuals in the public sector workforce. Pioneering programs are those that recognize data literacy as more than training. They view data literacy as a holistic set of activities program to engage employees at all levels with data, develop employees with relevant skills, and enable scale of data literacy by augmenting employees’ skills with guided learning support and resources.

Agencies should begin by crafting the case for change. As is common with any emerging field, varying definitions and interpretations of “data literacy” are prevalent, which can affect program design. Being explicit in what problems are being solved for, as well as the needs and drivers to be addressed with a data literacy program or capacity, are vital to mitigate false starts…(More)”.