Government urged to take action on data literacy

Non-profit the Open Knowledge Foundation flags need for more skills and access to data

The UK’s failure to train large numbers of workers in digital skills will leave the workforce “ill-equipped to take on many jobs of the future”, an open-data advocacy group has warned.

Proposals for a new National Data Strategy were announced by the UK government in June 2018, with the aim of unlocking “the power of data across government and the wider economy, while building citizen trust in its use”.  

Last month, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published a call for evidence, inviting submissions from representatives of the public and private sector, as well as academia and civil society.

In a written submission, the Open Knowledge Foundation – a global non-profit entity dedicated to helping organisations use data to tackle social challenges – urged ministers to invest in skills training, with the organisation calling for a data literacy training programme open to local communities to ensure UK workers have the skills for the technological jobs of the future.

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It also recommended the creation of “citizen science projects” through schools, libraries, churches and community groups to help people collect high-quality data relating to issues such as air quality or recycling.

The submission called for greater use of open licences, which grant the general public rights to reuse, distribute, combine or modify works that would otherwise be restricted under intellectual property laws.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said: “The digital revolution is driven by data, opening up extraordinary access to information for everyone about how we live, what we consume, and who we are.  But governments across the world must now work harder to give everyone access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives; as well as making powerful institutions more accountable.

“The UK has a golden opportunity to lead by example and boost its economy as a result, but must invest in skills to make this a reality. Without training and knowledge, large numbers of UK workers will be ill-equipped to take on many jobs of the future.”

She added: “We also need to see pioneering new ways of producing and harnessing citizen-generated data through schools, libraries, churches and community groups, which in turn could help the government to collect high-quality data relating to issues such as air quality or recycling. With a clear commitment from the government, the UK has an opportunity to be at the forefront of a global future that is fair, free and open.”


Sam Trendall

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