Are Data Skills Equally Distributed? Building a Society with Data at its Heart

1. ‘Data’ is about a broad mix of skills

Successful data projects rely on a potent mix of people, as well as skills — but this is still pretty murky. We can’t think of Data as something that geeks do — from identifying use cases to designing and testing stories, I’d say that there is something that anyone and everyone can bring to a data-related project.

  • Get a conversation going on what combination of skills is important when working with data
  • Start giving equal value to each of these skills
  • Identify where there are gaps in skills which could be filled to make things better?

2. ‘Data’ is dependent on a bunch of other stuff

This ‘network of skills’ is actually more complex than we would like to think. For many people ‘in the know’, it’s too easy to *assume* that data skills are easy. Someone in the session highlighted that there are severe obstacles to entry in the field, such as basic access to computing, or decent broadband, and if we don’t address *these* blockers, then we’re not going to get anywhere very quickly.

  • Start highlighting the things which are blocking broader takeup of the skills above
  • Have conversations with people who are starting out with data and evidence, to see what their needs and pains are
  • Work with people to actually find ways to remove these blockages?

3. The network is everything

The data movement can no longer rely on well-meaning individuals and skilled, lone coders. Again, I think this is something we all kind of know, really. But it’s easy to be an isolated individual when it comes to making an effort — I’ll reluctantly put my hand up and admit I’m guilty of this, because busy and fragmented and all that. We work as a team at OCSI, but outside of that, it feels like I’m an individual, vaguely thinking I can build tools to empower the world, all by myself. It needs more than that.

  • Encourage a more diverse approach to data skills networks, bringing together a wider range of backgrounds
  • Reach out to other groups which need similar support
  • Help groups to learn from other groups

Actions

I’ll admit I’m a little bit stuck here, which is one of the reasons this post has been delayed. I have some initial ideas, but maybe others are already doing this? Maybe I’m just reinventing a wheel that all the other open data groups out there are already inventing, and successfully?

  1. What can *I* realistically do, and how can I use my position — where I’m already within a network of data professionals — to push data skills outside of their existing “comfort” networks?
  2. Who should I be talking to as part of that effort, and how? Is that a series of personal conversations, or is there scope for some larger, ongoing “group” to move this on?

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Graham

Graham

Lead tech at OCSI, making data friendly for social good. Likes words. Doesn't really own a bowler hat.