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Chapter One Part II: What is data to people?

Data has become such an integral part of our life in a quiet way, that a lot of us don’t actively take notice of how we’re using our data literacy in making/creating decisions in our lives. For a lot of people, data represents a string of numbers that mean very little to them and has become this mysterious black box that requires learning a new language to be able to unearth the power of this knowledge.

First, let us shift our perspective and change the meaning behind the word data.

Data is more than numbers waiting to be grouped together, it is a wealth of insights waiting to be discovered. We all read data and make decisions based on that data whether we do that consciously or subconsciously is a different question.

In this post, 3 key uses of data will be explored:

  • Data usage in everyday life 
  • Data that helps improve/facilitate business growth 
  • Uses of data in the not-for-profit sector

Everyday Data use:

Every single one of us has had that moment where we plan a trip to an unfamiliar location. The first thing we do is open a map. Fortunately, we all have a phone with easy access to either Google Maps, CityMapper etc. 

This is spatial data that we are accessing; when we enter a location, the mapping software enters the longitude and latitude of the location we have selected. This then creates geometry points that create a spatial line between our starting point and ending point.

This provides data for us to read where we compare different modes of transportation on:

  • Cost 
  • Distance 
  • Speed 
  • Calories lost

We take in all of this information we are being fed from the data and we make a decision based on these data points, and adding our own personal context, therefore you are accessing your data literacy capabilities. 

This spatial data is being accessed by analysts, who create a data visualisation that can spread awareness about key issues, such as climate changes and allows the end-user to utilise their data literacy and become more knowledgeable and aware.  

Spatial data can also be used to create impactful data visualisation about the environment and the impact climate change has on our ecosystem. Below is a data visualisation created by Ben Davis where he looks at the impact of sea levels rising on the deer population within Florida. This visualisation combines both the spatial data and the information in the text to explain the impact of rising water levels. 

By Ben Davis click here to interact with the data visualisation

Data Science for Business Growth

Something as simple as listening to music on Spotify leads to you create data points for Spotify to gain a better understanding of what your music taste is. This has a positive impact in tailoring your discover weekly playlist on Spotify based on the information it has gathered on your listening behaviours such as:

  • Genre
  • Artist 
  • Songs
  • Album 
  • Words 
  • Duration of listening behaviour 

The benefits of analysing and collecting user behaviour data are that organisations like Spotify can create a better recommendation system and create personalised playlists. Listening to customised playlists lets the user feel instantly gratified with the music, without having to invest the effort in searching through millions of songs for something that they might like. 

This is a data visualisation created by Adam Crahen this analysed data Spotify has about the Top 100 songs in 2017 on Spotify. 

By Adam Crahan, explore the data visualisation here

Let us also take a look at Amazon – they have in-depth complex data about customer behaviour to an enormous level, and this information feeds their recommendation engine. They are able to utilise this big data to look for insight, using various techniques such as market basket analysis. 

The impact? For example, using Market Basket allows Amazon to predict what a customer will purchase next based on previous customer behaviour. However, the ability to predict people’s behaviour is very much dependent on the wealth of information that is being gathered and the quality of this information, if the data being gathered is low in information and/or quality there you are not ready to be taking the predictive step yet in your data journey.  

Data in the not-for-profit sector:

Utilising data is not just powerful within the private sector. The not-for-profit sector has the ability to leverage the data they have and create a powerful impact within this world in changing things for the better. 

Equal Measures 2030 is one of the few innovative foundations that is currently leveraging data to help further their cause in improving women and girls access towards:

  • Education 
  • Health care
  • Work opportunities
  • Representation in politics 
  • Having a voice in economic decisions 

This is important since it gives them a voice and allows them to break away from discrimination, prejudice and helps advance society’s gender equality and empower women’s initiatives. 

Equal Measures 2030 gathers robust data concerning 129 countries worldwide gender equality by assessing them according to the Sustainable Development Goals. This data has the ability to assess how far away are countries from achieving gender equality, which can help guide decisions concerning policy reform, government accountability, budget decisions and present the case needed for the law change.

Currently, this data serves as the most comprehensive accountability tool available for the world to explore and is visualised on their website here-> https://data.em2030.org/

This showcases the power of data visualisation and the weight of the impact this can have on the future.

What can data mean for your organisation?

Data has power because it allows you to make decisions at a faster rate, this information allows you to solve your problems at a more efficient and accurate rate, whilst reducing the room for error. Every action your organisation take will generate more data points. This information will be stored within your database infrastructure and grow.

Over time the immense amount of data you will have will provide valuable insight on past, present and future. This will answer questions concerning your companies potential, how to improve etc. Some of the questions you ask from your data will be the ones that at this present time intrigue you and create a drive from an answer, this is because data insights are helpful when making an informed decision. 

For this reason, it is also important to ask questions concerning how is this data being gathered.

Soha Elghany

London, UK

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