Australia’s data literacy gaps: How executive programmes can help

SOURCE: Ian Tuttle/Getty Images/AFP
While data is important to drive businesses to success, many employees may find a little too much data to be overwhelming.

By U2B Staff 

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As technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace across all industrial sectors, its not surprising that the current workforce needs to be equipped with the latest data literacy skills. 

Among one of these essential digital skills that are required in today’s employment market is data literacy, or the ability to interpret and evaluate data and be able to apply it to practice. 

In Australia, these skills are essential for all employees working under the Australian Public Service (APS) to ensure that all forms of decision-making that falls under the public service sector are adequately informed by reliable and appropriately disseminated data. 


However, a report by Accenture and data solutions provider Qlik indicates that there is still an obvious digital skills gap among businesses in terms of data literacy. 

The report, conducted on behalf of the Data Literacy Project and titled The Human Impact of Data Literacy, showed that out of 9,000 employees around the world (with 1,000 of them being from Australia), many of them struggled to make sense of data despite acknowledging the importance of it for the sake of the business. 

Unfortunately, this data literacy gap among the Australian workforce may result in an adverse impact in terms of productivity and business value. This has created a need for employers to upskill their employees and train them in data literacy skills. 

#1 Australian Public Service Commission (APSC)

 The Australian Public Service Commission offers free and flexible e-learning modules to all APS employees. 

Employees only need to register for an account on the commission’s e-learning platform, APSLearn to gain access to a variety of skill-specific courses that span from around 45 minutes to one-and-a-half hour. 

These courses are free to access all year round according to the employee’s time availability. The recommended modules that the APS suggests for data literacy are as follows: 

  • Module 1: Using data in the APS 
  • Module 2: Undertaking research 
  • Module 3: Using statistics 
  • Module 4: Visualising information 
  • Module 5: Providing evidence for decision-makers 

The course content encompasses the basic knowledge and necessary skills needed to be able to understand how data works and how best to use it. 

Employees are free to take the modules in any order, but the APS recommends beginning with module 1. 

After completing the introductory module, participants will be able to schedule a 1 day face-to-face workshop where participants will collect and examine numerical data and perform a range of basic statistical calculations. 

This will all be done with the guidance from an expert facilitator. 

Besides that, APS employees are also free to explore the rest of the organisation’s course catalogues for more options to develop relevant skills. 

data literacy
A data-driven industry requires employees who are able to decipher and present data appropriately. Source: Juan Barreto/AFP.

#2 Qlik

Besides working on the Data Literacy Project survey with Accenture, Qlik also offers a comprehensive programme called the Qlik Data Literacy Program

The programme is open for employers who wish to upskill their employees in data literacy and for individual employees as well who may wish to upskill in order to advance in their career. 

The Data Literacy programme offers a range of options for learners, including a self-assessment test that allows the user to identify their own data literacy persona and receive recommendations on which option would suit them best to take their upskilling journey to the next level. 

The programme also offers a range of instructor-led or self-paced courses to suit each learner’s personal preference. 

The instructor-led programmes can be conducted on-site at the user’s location whereas the self-paced courses are fully available online. The programme also offers a range of useful data-literacy workshops as well as consultation services for a more in-depth look into any qualms or anxieties over the complexity of data. 


Most Australian universities also provide their own form of executive education programmes aimed at developing digital literacy. 

At the RMIT, the Data Literacy credential is open to current RMIT students and is a stackable credential under the Data Literacy stack. 

The course covers the security and legal considerations on how personal data can be collected, stored, and use as well as the basics on how data management with considerations towards privacy, confidentiality and copyright. 

Among the course content is to help professionals use digital tools to manage personal and corporate data as well as to interpret and report data in personal and professional contexts. The course content will also emphasize the ethical and safe use of personal and corporate data. 

The learning outcomes of the course which mainly consists of project tasks and online assessments are to show an understanding of the benefits and risks associated with data usage as well as demonstrating knowledge of how data should be collected, stored and accessed. 


#4 University of Sydney 

Meanwhile, at the University of Sydney, a more sector-specific postgrad qualification in data literacy is available. 

Called the Sydney Professional Certificate in Data Literacy for Health Policymakers, this professional course is designed for those working in health policy and economics and will equip them with the skills needed to critically appraise, analyse and use data for policy and medical-practice-related decision-making. 

Consisting of two online and block mode units of study, the programme will increase students’ understanding of the links between evidence, policy and practice. This will eventually build up a range of skills that will enable students to make appropriate changes and implementing policies backed up by evidential knowledge in the form of data. 

The course is most suitable for users in public health, health policy and economics professionals who wish to improve their information and data literacy for health policymaking.