Live Blog: Building a Data Literate Future Today | MIT Center for Civic Media

Live Blog: Building a Data Literate Future Today

This is a liveblog of a talk at the 2016 Data Literacy Conference, hoster by Fing.  This was liveblogged by Rahul Bhargava and Catherine D'Ignazio.  These are our best attempt to record what the speak was talking about - any accuracy errors are our fault.

Harshil Parikh is Co-Founder and CEO of Tuva.  Tuva strives to empower various types of organizations to build a foundation in data and statistical literacy.  The bad news is that defining data literacy is hard. It sits at the intersection of things like statistical literacy, visual storytelling, research methods and ethics/privacy concerns. It's hard to deliver on a product if you can't define it.

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More bad news; everyone needs data literacy - Academia, Business and Government. But these different worlds have different ways of selecting, purchasing and using products and services. Even more bad news - what type of data literacy if useful to you depends on your sector.

But there is some good news!  The need is being felt.  Investment can be linked to outcomes and impact.  There is opportunity for targeting offerings. These programs aren't zero-sum gains; the need continues over time.

Tuva started with building products for schools. They are in use by ~8500 schools, over 250 higher-ed institutions. Their business model is "freemium", where you can use some of it for free, and pay for more fleshed out offerings.

Tuva is focused now on building offerings for businesses. Any company that wants to stay competitive is investing in technology to support data.  In addition, they are acquiring and retaining data talent.  More importantly, they are realizing that these two things are not enough. This doesn't create a culture based on data and evidence.  So they are investing in their existing workforce as well. This creates a shift in investment from just data producers to data consumers.  They want to create a link between data and analytics.

This has lead Tuva to target specific audiences; specifically those that aren't very technical. This includes managers, team-leads, early-career professionals, and summer interns. They are building diagnostic assessments around literacy to justify expenditures.

Tuva has built a data visualization training for tax audit and advisory companies. They created a program for statistical literacy for a financial management company.  Each of these requires them to be nimble in the approach and curriculum. They've rolled out multilingual trainings for the World Bank targeting internal and external partner audiences (ministries and CSOs).

Demand for data literacy is on the rise. These can be directly linked to organizational outcomes. Niche products can be produced for industry verticals. Data literacy is a fundamental skill in the 21st century. This is how to build a data literate future today.