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Data Literacy as future-key

"Strong society, strong economy, strong self" refers to a comprehensive approach to resilience and empowerment at individual, economic, and societal levels. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted several vulnerabilities, prompting questions about how a country can be more resilient. One foundational element for building a more resilient nation, as identified in your text, is Data Literacy: the competency to make better decisions with the aid of data.

Data in Crisis

The critical importance of data and statistics in supporting complex political decisions has never been more apparent than during the COVID-19 crisis. There is a pressing need for actionable and governance knowledge, which must be derived from a continuous flow of high-quality and trustworthy data and statistics.

Data are deemed essential for decision-making, especially under uncertainty. This was emphasized by the United Nations Statistics Division in 2017 in the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development, highlighting that "high-quality and up-to-date data are crucial for governments, international organizations, civil society, the private sector, and the general public to make informed decisions and ensure accountability of governing bodies."

Data in the Age of Digitalization

Despite data being as plentiful as the "oil of the 21st century" in the digital age, it is not always guaranteed that this data is usable. We often risk drowning in a sea of useless data and its derivatives: data from non-representative surveys; metrics and visualizations that suggest false security rather than encouraging a sensible handling of uncertainty; analyses that either dramatize or trivialize, rarely distinguishing between facts and interpretations.

Good data and the competency to make wise decisions with it are indispensable in a globalized and digitalized society facing complex challenges. These are essential for sustainable development and social participation. To transform data into governance knowledge, it must be cleaned, linked, analyzed, contextualized, and interpreted. This necessary competency is what we mean by Data Literacy.

Data Literacy as a Crisis Skill

Data Literacy is not about creating an illusion of security through vast amounts of data and complex analysis methods. The crisis painfully teaches that not every decision can be "pre-calculated" through data.

Instead, Data Literacy is the ability to handle uncertainty and the responsibility to not delegate decisions to data and algorithms. This was essentially what the English writer Herbert George Wells demanded over a hundred years ago as one of the three core competencies for a responsible citizen in a modern technological world: the capability to handle risks and uncertainties reasonably.

Building Blocks for the Future

In the 2021 Zukunftsnavigator of the Roman Herzog Institute, I share my thoughts on how Data Literacy can enhance self-determination. Thirty influential voices from insightful, visionary women take the stage, shedding light on education, digitalization, economy, prosperity, and justice from various perspectives. It's a read that promises value!

This encapsulation of your contribution to the RHI Zukunftsnavigator 2021 provides a glimpse into the critical role data and statistical literacy play in navigating and mitigating the challenges in times of crisis and beyond.


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