Data InsightData literacy and confidence with data is just the beginning

Data literacy and confidence with data is just the beginning

Innovation in the UK will be driven by data literacy and confidence with data in the public sector employees who use data as part of their day-to-day role

Public sector workers having data literacy and confidence with data is just the beginning, according to independent research, which suggests the public sector must become more data-driven in order to continue to be effective for UK citizens.

The Public Sector Data Report 2019 surveyed 100 public sector employees to discover how they keep on top of security, budget cuts and regulation while attempting to process and understand growing amounts of data. The research was commissioned by Big Data LDN and sponsored by Qlik.

Other key findings from the report include:

  1. Security, data loss and breaches are top concerns for the UK’s public sector. Out of the 100 public sector employees surveyed, 20% cited security concerns, 13% feared data loss or breaches and 5% claimed GDPR held them back from sharing data.
  2. Half of the UK’s public sector is confident in Data Literacy. Half of the respondents were either confident and well-trained or competent and eager to learn when it came to Data Literacy.
  3. Data and analytics are seen as a high value in the public sector. Over a third of respondents, (37%) agreed that their current data initiatives were very helpful in some way, either helping departmental collaboration or identifying areas for saving.

A vital starting point

The UK’s transition to a data-driven society is underpinned by the skill sets required by business leaders to thrive. Empowering the public sector with these skills is a vital starting point.

The survey respondents cited that nearly 50% of public sector workers are either confident, well-trained and empowered to make discoveries in their data or competent and eager to learn more. However, this was contrasted with 31% of public sector workers who were either under-trained and scared of too much data, or unconfident and unsure how to interpret data insights. Further to this, 19% of respondents did not know how data literate their staff and colleagues were.

Room for improvement

There is room for improvement to ensure the UK’s public sector becomes increasingly data-driven. The improvements will also ensure that it continues to innovate for the nation it serves.

The value of data needs to be seen by the whole organisation, not just an empowered few. Over a third of public sector respondents, 34%, cited their organisation as either not very data literate, or not data literate at all.

However, 21% of respondents cited their organisation as already very data literate and able to harness that data knowledge to make decisions throughout the organisation. A further 27% cited themselves as fairly data literate. These responses represent a confident start by the UK’s public sector, although there’s more work to be done.

Poor data literacy can result in negative behaviour or missed opportunities with data. It is important that public sector leaders strive to provide their staff with a level of data literacy which is appropriate to their function. If public sector leaders make data literacy accessible for all, it will create value-add opportunities for the operational and strategic functions of their organisations.

Time efficiency and collaboration

The research suggested many data-driven initiatives were already in place. A total of 91% of respondents claimed that data-driven initiatives had benefited their respective departments, while 15% of respondents cited data-driven initiatives as directly saving staff time and providing more opportunities for staff to be proactive.

Another benefit of data-driven initiatives is the ability to share important information with other public sector entities. Public sector organisations currently sharing data with other public sector enterprises have reported great benefit. As part of a multi-agency process, 52% of the organisations shared data with other public sector organisations against 24% who don’t. However, 10% of respondents who commented that they have very little multiagency data collaboration saw the benefits of doing so.

Moving beyond Excel

Overall 31% of public sector organisations used raw data in spreadsheet format. This is unsurprising, as spreadsheets are the most widely used data analytics tool. However, Excel cannot storytell with data. Most public sector entities are in the very early stages of their data analytics exploration.

A further 16% used descriptive analytics techniques. Over a quarter, 26%, of public sector organisations were using advanced analytics techniques. It was being used towards either scenario planning, prescriptive, or predictive analytics techniques. Public sector data leaders must reduce the number of those relying on raw spreadsheets for data analytics.

These individuals must be provided with the skills and tools. They also need to be empowered to become data literate and encouraged to be data leaders.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Austerity can help data innovation in the public sector. Departments with the public are seeking new ideas and solutions to solve the issues austerity creates.

Necessity has once again become the mother of invention. 54% of the respondents had addressed public sector spending cuts with data and analytics. Additionally, 20% cited no effect on their analysis or handling of data. This suggests that current data initiatives are working, regardless of funding.

Just 25% of respondents indicated adverse impacts on data initiatives. These respondents cited austerity as preventing the rollout of data-driven initiatives. The respondents cited austerity caused a reduced ability to analyse and make use of data.

Confidence in data literacy is increasing

Sean Price, EMEA Director, Industry Solutions, Qlik commented: “This research reveals that there are clear pockets of excellence and world-leading solutions that some of the UK’s public sector organisations are delivering. Even though the fears of security and data loss prevent some from sharing and handling data in the most effective way, it is highly encouraging to see confidence in data literacy increasing. This is absolutely vital in today’s fourth industrial revolution.”

Big Data LDN founder Bill Hammond, said: “These findings highlight how harnessing data is key to future of data innovation. Now is the time for public sector leaders to take action, make sure their employees are confident and well equipped to handle large amounts of data, rather than avoiding the issue because the data sets are ‘too large’. We only have to look at the fact that nearly all respondents have seen benefits from data-driven initiatives to know this is the next step to the UK’s public sector growth.”

Gartner has predicted that by 2023, 50% of the roles that government CIOs will oversee do not exist in government IT today. A successful digital transformation of the government will require thinking and adapting like an end-user.

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