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GBA | 23 September 2017

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Competency of the Information Age: Data Literacy

Competency of the information age: Data Literacy

Generation of data that contain the keys of information and enable access to greater information when combined with one another grows continuously and in an independent way from the individual will for people who adopt information processing as an important fact of life. It is just like breathing in that sense.

Since 3300 B.C., the date considered to be the invention of writing by Sumerians, literacy has been considered to be the most basic qualification for the human. Everything we see, interact and experience come from subjectivity and transform into objective and therefore is brought to the use of others. We owe all of them to literacy. Being adapted to the data containing modern-day information, this qualification reveals a whole new derivative of itself. It is new, functional and critical for many aspects; it is Data Literacy.

Considering the fact that every entrepreneur is also a consumer, we should focus on both sides of the data literacy coin.

Individual side of the coin

In entrepreneurship world, the definition of data is a concept that has material value and provides competitive advantage when analyzed with the right tools and approaches, however, data literacy is not a qualification that only entrepreneurs should focus on. In this age of information, information is generated uninterruptedly and the human himself transforms not only into the buyer but also the source. Being aware of what makes the human creation valuable and how it is used poses great importance for several aspects.


Regardless of the fact that one does not make a special effort to generate information and does not generally need this information, the reality that data should be evaluated specifically for them stays intact. In the past years, many giants that achieved the position of the receiver of enormous amounts of data from all corners of the world have not felt the necessity to raise awareness about their use of such data. Rapid development of the mobile revolution might have played a role in that. Following the singling out of giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Google for severe criticism regarding user privacy, that era was no more. Facebook now attempts to bring in data literacy for its users through “Life in a Connected World” portal. Meanwhile it is also cooperating with institutions that operate for identical purposes.

From now on, data circulation and trade are carried out within albeit specified restrictions. The need for further regulations is an unquestionable reality.


The awareness of constituting a resource within the data ecosystem by every person who somehow adapted to the age of information might as well serve for making the true potential of data to serve the humanity. Otherwise it is also possible that the balance between companies and customers might break down. In the age of information, companies require data to reach, allure and convince their customers. If such data continue to flow towards only a few destinations -as it happens today-, it might result in the accumulation of data and the sole access to it by a rather foreseeable minority, in addition to fortune.

As a result, in order to claim to be data literate, a person should understand how companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook collect and analyze data, participate in data governance and large-scale data discussions, be capable of using data to reach social goals as well as interact with the society through data.

Institutional side of the coin

Nowadays data-oriented developments bring about long term business strategies before social awareness. Therefore, the institutional dimension of data literacy is rather complicated and detailed since companies have already took the action about it.

The only aspect of data literacy that makes it significant for entrepreneurs is that it is the key to big data. The point where big data has reached today makes it not only because of its size but also its contents.

The size of information for an information-oriented start-up is too enormous to deal with. Umbel’s data analysis technology Digital Genome can collect, analyze and visualize 18,446,774,709,600,000 data in less than a second. We are talking about 18 billion data; it is a very difficult size to process, let alone understanding it and taking actions based on the findings. We can define data literacy for entrepreneurs as accessing, perceiving and taking actions based on findings from such large amounts of data.


Discounting data scientists, most entrepreneurs are not data literate. A recently foregrounded idea defends the fact that data literacy must be taught at high school and university levels specifically for business. Presently many universities in the US and Europe offer lectures to provide intellectual and technical hardware for students, which will allow them to create value off of enormous data. It is expected that the Generation Y will acquire control of enormous data, meanwhile triggering the natural selection in business world. Some giants that are now trying to adapt to data literacy will soon fall against the natural masters of enormous data.


Visualization (i.e. Google Analytics methods) is the alphabet of data literacy for business world. Data scientists are analyzing huge masses of data relying on the professional software and algorithms they create. And through visualization, they enable managers and marketing teams to make decisions in light of such data without having to know about algorithms nor data sets. The fact that the above mentioned natural masters create such new generation literacy underlines once again that the future is being shaped by today, and signals to the rise of those capable to use data the best.

The secret of popularizing data literacy throughout an organization, on the other hand, lies within democratization of frequent data (in other words, analytics). Traditional companies express a protective attitude towards data, meanwhile all departments with the same approach receive a visualized version of processable data sets for their operational use.

Data literacy for entrepreneurs is established upon democratic data analysis and user experience. If a platform where data are transferred is difficult, it won’t work; if it does not suit the needs of all departments equally, it will not be adopted by the whole organization. Considering the fact that we cannot expect our marketing teams to be data scientists, the platform to provide data literacy must be capable of eliminating the technical gap between an ordinary person and the algorithm’s creator, data scientist. There now lies two options for entrepreneurs: Would you seek for solutions in order to get the whip hand against your competitors or would you personally be the creator of such a solution? What’s certain is that you have to choose what best suits for your start-up in order to take part in the data-oriented competition.

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