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Start them young – Bridging the data literacy gap

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By Piyush Agarwal, SE Leader, Cloudera India

In July 2015, the government launched the Digital India campaign to connect the country’s most remote areas with internet access and promote digital literacy. Seven years later, India’s Internet users have almost doubled from 350 million to 658 million. This increase has led to a rise in the amount of data being generated, which is waiting to be harnessed for the public good. It becomes easy to see how a more data-literate population can leverage this data to impact India’s economic and human development positively.

Data literacy still remains an issue in India
While the Indian population may be proficient when dealing with Machine Learning and Mathematics, data skills and literacy continue to be a weak link. According to a 2021 study by Coursera, Indians have only 25% proficiency in data analysis. As the demand for data scientists surpasses supply worldwide, these low levels of data literacy skills may mean that India could grapple with a future shortage of data science professionals.

With India’s GDP projected to grow to 8.4% for 2022-23, the country will benefit from developing smart cities across the nation. These smart cities will fuel a more competitive economy, improve the quality of life and solve other urban and socio-economic challenges currently faced by Indian citizens. Data literacy skills will be essential to meet this national objective. For example, it enables smart cities to harness the power of technology to develop rural areas, provide new job opportunities, prevent greenhouse gas emissions and even reduce the cost of living.

In a post-pandemic India, technology has been at the heart of Indian businesses’ transformation. Employees have had to upskill and re-skill themselves to adapt to the new way of conducting business. The skills that will be in demand going forward include full-stack coding, data science proficiency and machine learning knowledge.

Making data more accessible
Given how the business landscape is evolving, the capacity to comprehend and apply data is extremely crucial. The pandemic has proven that the most resilient businesses are those that are agile and can quickly pivot to adapt to market changes. In most cases, these businesses rely on data-backed insights to make informed decisions.
Employees will better understand the importance data holds in their everyday jobs if they have easy access to it. Once they have undergone training and learning to be more data-literate, they will start being more comfortable utilizing it in more areas and reaping the benefits, such as improving operational efficiency, building technical resilience, or enabling cost savings.

Building a future generation that is data-literate
A data revolution has already been set in motion and it’s important that our education system adapts to equip the workforce of the future with skills that are in high demand. Teaching children the importance of data at an early stage is crucial since it’s now a part of everyday life, and can help them comprehend the importance of data and how it impacts them. For example, data-literate children will also be more cognizant of the kind of data they should share, promoting healthy internet usage habits. Children can be introduced to data early on through various avenues such as books, videos and games that discuss concepts like data gathering and visualization. Making data fun starts at home

With mobile gaming and coding courses for children becoming more prevalent in India, it is much easier to get children familiar with data . Building a strong foundation with tools like counting games helps create greater familiarity and receptiveness towards data concepts in their later years. Online courses that teach coding not only help children learn a new skill but also build their overall confidence and improve their writing, communication, and mathematical capabilities.

At home, parents can start by simplifying the concept of data and introducing it to their children through books. Children’s books cover a wide range of topics and often come with detailed illustrations to explain concepts in a more relatable manner to a child. By making reading more fun and engaging, parents can encourage the habit in their children from an early age while enriching their knowledge on data.

At Cloudera, we believe in learning and advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and technology concepts in an educational yet entertaining way. Last year, we partnered with a team of educators, ReadyAI, to write our first book for children aged 8-10 years old. Titled A Fresh Squeeze of Data, the book follows the protagonist Clara’s journey in setting up her lemonade stand and how data helps her solve problems and make better decisions. By using a story about selling lemonade, the concept of data is explained in a way that children can understand and helps show simple ways of problem solving with data. In a world where even a 14-year-old can become an AI expert, children should be offered more opportunities to be data-literate so that they can thrive intellectually, emotionally and morally alongside these new technologies. By promoting data literacy amongst our future tech innovators and disruptors, we are building a strong data-driven workforce for the evolving business landscape.

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