This week, Thetius technology analyst Evan Palmejar explores what it means to understand data literacy and unpacks its value to the maritime industry.
According to data shared by Statista, global data production is projected to increase at 180 zettabytes up to 2025. At a time where much of the ocean supply chain is making the shift towards digitalisation, this increase in data production represents the oxygen needed if we are to see a total revolution in how competitive organisations conduct their strategic development and decision making. Collecting data delivers insight, insight informs improvement, improvement delivers value. But realising value is a key driver for choosing to invest in data collection. This shows us that digitalisation is a self-perpetuating loop system – more data produced is likely to result in more data collected.
However, tapping into the advantages that data can bring also requires understanding through the use of analytical processes. Data as an asset can only be exploited effectively when an organisation is equipped with people who are knowledgeable in working with data.
Data literacy is what helps organisations take advantage of these opportunities in a world overloaded with raw and unorganised data. Data literacy refers to the ability to understand data and derive actionable insights from it.
The importance of data literacy in businesses has emerged upon the introduction of digital technologies. Beforehand, companies relied on personal judgement and previous experiences. The addition of data and its analysis in the decision-making process created a new school of thought within the corporate landscape aptly identified as data-driven decision making.
The maritime industry was traditionally identified as an area where intuitive decision making was the norm. The advent of technology and the increasing reliance of shipping companies and maritime organisations on more accurate and timely information led to the adoption of data and analytical processes.
As the industry continues to rapidly adopt technology and digital processes, organisations will have to require more data literate people within their organisations. According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, 87% propose that their organisation can become more successful when front liners are empowered to make critical decisions in the present situation. In the setting of a maritime organisation, having data-literate individuals greatly increases the level of collaboration and innovation that an organisation can achieve. Imagine having a seafarer who understands the value of the data they are collecting onboard the vessel. Having a data-literate member of the organisation be at the frontlines, allows them to play a key role in the flow of data within the organisation. This may be related to ensuring data quality at its source, or maybe at understanding how the data they have collected can directly impact their operational performance right at that moment. The impact of a data-literate and data-driven organisation affects every seafarer onboard and every shore-based staff member.
Enabling your organisation with data literacy does not mean that all of them must be experts in data and analytical applications. The levels of data literacy vary within every organisation, but it is upon the organisation’s objectives and targets to identify the final level of data literacy that they wish to attain within their organisation. Establishing data literacy in an organisation basically requires every member to understand data and analytics concepts. Developing competence for every individual reaps a tremendous advantage, but it is not a requirement. Having varying levels of data literacy within the organisation also means diversity in knowledge and expertise within the organisation.
The conversational level can be described as the basic understanding of data and the concepts in analytics. The literacy level refers to the ability to speak, write, and engage in data and analytics programs. The intermediate level of competency can be associated with being competent in designing, developing and applying data and analytics programs. The advanced levels can be identified with the fluency and multilingual levels, wherein the level of fluency refers to the ability to deliver value, information, and analytics across most business domains within an industry vertical, and the multilingual level can be defined as the ability to deliver value, information and analytics across multiple business domains and industries. The levels of proficiency mentioned above depict a summarised representation of how data literacy can be observed within an organisation.
In the process of developing data literacy, there is no standard framework for organisations to follow. However, it is suggested to approach the process in a similar way as to how the analytical process is conducted. This involves understanding the organisation’s current state of data literacy, identifying areas of focus, developing objectives and realistic goals, and providing the necessary resources and support to train and educate individuals with the skills to become data-literate. The process must be approached iteratively as maritime organisations should view data literacy as a measurable target that can be continuously improved upon.
Achieving data literacy at every layer of a maritime organisation opens up various areas for learning and development. It introduces members of the organisation to the value of data, the use of analytical processes, and the ability to communicate insights that may prove to be an impactful piece of information for the organisation. Data literacy empowers individuals within the organisation as their ability to understand and engage with data gives them the opportunity to be a part of the organisation’s drive towards a data-driven culture.
As much of the world is transitioning towards the digital age, the maritime industry must act accordingly to these changes. The advancement of digital technology and the associated expansion of data creation will only continue to accelerate the need for data-literate individuals.
It is important for organisations within the maritime industry, to not only take into account the use of new technologies, additional resources, and digital processes but they must also focus on how to ensure that these factors are used effectively and sustainably by the people within the organisation. Knowing that the significant features of a digitally transformed organisation lie within the relationships between people, technology, and processes with data being the key output of these connections. It is then vital that an organisation must understand and engage with this data to gain a better understanding of the dynamics that are developing within their organisations. This allows them to identify opportunities for development, assess their performance, and guide their strategic decisions, and many more.
Through the introduction of data literacy to every sector of the maritime industry, organisations will be able to equip sea and shore-based personnel with the capabilities to transition towards digitally enabled and data-driven tasks, preparing them for the future workplace innovations that may take place in the industry.
- The volume of data/information created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide from 2010 to 2025, Arne Holst, 7 June 2021
- Information as a Second Language: Enabling Data Literacy for Digital Society, Gartner, 21 September 2018
- The New Decision Makers: Equipping Frontline Workers for Success, HBR & Thoughtspot, 5 May 2020