We are living in a truly unprecedented time. One that is, and will continue to, radically change the way we work, the way we live, and the way we communicate with each other.

This is the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution

  1. The first industrial revolution used coal and water to make steam to mechanise.
  2. The second industrial revolution used electricity to mass mechanise and mass produce.
  3. The third industrial revolution leveraged electricity to bring about the rise of electronics both to miniaturise (microprocessors) and automate (automatons and robots).
  4. The fourth industrial revolution includes technology breakthroughs like machine learning, IoT, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, energy storage, and many more.

What powers all of this?

Data. Need more proof of the value data will play?

International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2027, data will be something that can be valued on a company’s balance sheet.

What really makes this unprecedented is the speed and scope of the changes occurring during this revolution.

The speed of which this is happening is exponential compared to previous industrial revolutions. The advancements in cognitive and machine learning alone are literally happening at inhuman speeds.

The scope is much broader as well. It is impacting and disrupting just about every industry, and doing so in just about all parts of the world. 

The overwhelming potential of this to positively impact society, including both the global economy and the quality of life for all of us, is massive.

Think about all the benefits data can have on society globally:

  • It can help understand and defeat diseases and minimise impacts from injuries.
  • It can help anticipate and prevent crime.
  • It can improve educational performance and outcomes of students.
  • It can help prevent conflicts and instability. It can make people aware of the importance of cognitive diversity and harmony.
  • It can help protect our heritage, help solve global warming, help sustain natural systems and resources, and prevent extinctions, even our own.

Too much emphasis is placed on the technology alone

Sure, there are downsides with this speed and scope, including things that need to get broader attention like data compliance, governance, and the ethical usage of data.

One of the biggest concerns is the fuel that drives these innovations (data) is something we are becoming increasingly dependent on leveraging.

In many situations, too much emphasis is placed on the technology alone. Technology is not the lifeblood of the fourth industrial revolution, it is the people who are interacting with the technology and the data inputted and outputted from it.

Therefore, it is imperative that people have the right skills. This requires more people to be able to read, work with, analyse, and argue with data.

That’s why the Data Literacy Project, in partnership with Qlik, has launched the industry’s first Data Literacy Certification.

This certification covers all aspects of data literacy, including:

  • The hard skills: Understanding and transforming data, designing, building, and interpreting visualisations
  • The soft skills: Interpreting business requirements, thinking creatively and using problem solving to analyse results
  • Both hard and soft skills at the same time, including making data-informed decisions and the ability to communicate with data and share results. 

This is because the right skills needed are a combination of both hard skills and soft skills.

Data skills are needed across all levels and organisations to future proof our workforce

People at all levels of an organisation, in all parts of the globe, need to have the hard skills to understand data, including how to visualise and interpret it.

They also need to be able to use soft skills to challenge data with problem solving, think critically and collaboratively to avoid bias, they need to be able to make systemic data-informed decisions, and then be able to communicate those decisions using data to their stakeholders.

This is all moving so much faster than previous industrial revolutions have that organisations, including businesses and schools, are behind and need to catch up fast.

The set of skills required are lacking. Institutions that educate on the comprehensive set of skills as a unified curriculum are few and far between.

But we need to work together to improve this, as ultimately, as data continues to take hold of every aspect of our lives.

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Having the data skills across all levels and organisations to be able to ask questions of data without the restrictions dictated by machines will not only be key to future proofing the UK’s workforce across every industry, but for individuals to thrive in a data-driven society.

Kevin Hanegan, Chief Learning Officer, Qlik

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