Data literacy: Why it matters

The world is drowning in data. Consequently, we see more organizations continuously embracing and addressing the need for data literacy in order to improve their daily operations. 

It’s a skill that empowers all levels of workers to ask the right questions of data and machines, build knowledge, make decisions, and communicate meaning to others and is therefore a core requirement for career advancement in the 21st century. Data literacy is the ability to read, work with, analyse and communicate insights from data. 

A year and a few months in change ago, I had no idea what data can do to an organization and the impact data literacy can have on an organization. I learnt about data when I joined JENGA School, a computer science skills professional institution on a mission to unleash Africa’s genius to help solve global problems.

Data literacy is to the 21st century what literacy was in the past century, and there is no other way but to embrace it.

Evidently, businesses are now eager to use all those megabytes, bytes and gigabytes to drive sales and profit. By drawing on a range of disciplines, including statistics, business management, and computer science, data scientists are able to mine large sets of data, analyse it and generate practical insights. 

One organization that has exemplified this so well in partnership with JENGA School is M-kopa Solar. M-kopa Solar is a connected asset financing platform that offers millions of underbanked customers access to life enhancing products and services. Since its inception in 2012, M-Kopa has made over a million loans to off-grid customers, connecting them with clean solar energy and giving them access to capital to finance things like school fees and agricultural projects.

I learnt about M-kopa Solar in depth after interacting with one of our inaugural Foundations in Data Science Program students, Bernice George, who was sponsored by the company to pursue the program in order to optimize her work since she deals with data on a daily basis. Through her I learnt that data is at the heart of M-kopa.

Bernice George, a Foundations in Data Science Program Graduate

“We’re a business with terabytes and terabytes of data that we should be using to help rural Africans gain access to electricity and financial services, yet we’re not using it nearly as effectively as we need to be.” David Damberger, the chief data officer at M-kopa.

M-kopa Solar deals with huge data sets and hence the need for individuals who can draw insights from data cannot be overemphasized. I was able to do some research on M-kopa, through that, I connected with the Human Resource Manager there, Jacinta Namuyanja, who made a lunch and learn partnership possible. It’s been a great pleasure partnering with M-kopa especially on our September Intake at JENGA School where they sponsored 10 of their staff to our programs. 

With the growth in computer technology, big data, internet connectivity and globalization, every company is a Tech company. What this means, is that tech skills such as data literacy and software capability are a necessity. 

JENGA School with its portfolio: Foundations in Data Science Program, Data Science Core program and Software Engineering Professional Accelerator(SEPA) program, is the ultimate view of African businesses playing a bigger role in the global tech space.

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