Qlik could have forgotten the tired slogans — such as “data is the new currency” — at the recent Qlik Qonnections and gone straight for the what makes Qlik stand out. That starts with their tastiest, chewiest morsel: their apparently serious campaign for data literacy.
What is data literacy? Valerie Logan, Gartner data and analytics research director, described it in the show’s best presentation: It’s “the ability to read, work with, analyze, and argue with data.”
“This is the heart,” said CEO Mike Capone in the morning session, “of what’s going to drive the future.”
Every initiative Qlik has going — or just about any other data-tech vendor —depends on greater data literacy within business and the general population. According to multiple surveys over the years, data literacy is stuck at about 25 percent despite all the marketing (and all the slogans). CEO Capone cites surveys that put it even lower, at 20 percent. Imagine, no more than four out of five eligible users can read, work with, and analyze data, and no doubt even fewer can use it to persuade.
That’s a problem for everyone. What makes “data is the new currency” such a tired slogan is that most of the the crowd at Qonnections knew it years ago. Data’s also the “new oil” and the “lifeblood of capitalism.”
The problem goes beyond business. The inability to use data is also a problem for cities as they strive to use data to make more of physical infrastructure. City staff can do some of that, but “smart cities” also rely on the everyday resident and visitor.
Qlik seems to have its eye on this. The topic came up in CEO Capone’s staged interview with the C40 Leadership GroupCities Climate senior manager of data and analytics Eric Ast. C40 is a network of megacities using analytics as a tool.
Smart cities get hungry, and they can be fed by smart farms. Mesur.io embeds Qlik technology to make the most of water and sunlight — with the kind of product that portends a greater application of data tech than users at desks analyzing data. It doesn’t look like data analysis at all, yet Qlik’s inside it. Founder and CTO Mike Prorock, himself a small farmer, supplies farms with the smarts to irrigate and grow food more efficiently than they could otherwise.
What about plain old horse sense? Old farmers often operated by feel, and longtime city dwellers do, too. Around the data industry, we scoff at such knowledge, but I hope that Qlik’s idea of literacy includes the kind of accumulated knowledge people know but can’t easily unpack. Sometimes it’s valid. Data that technology handles is far from the only valid knowledge.
Something I heard one man at a Tableau conference say a few years ago is an example of the data industry’s myopia — what I hope Qlik can help cure. “If it isn’t data,” he said smugly, “it doesn’t exist.” I doubt if he had any idea what he was missing.
I look forward to hearing more from the Qlik literacy program’s head, Jordan Morrow, with whom I spoke briefly at the event.