What does literacy look like in the age of data? Initial reflections from the Nepal Data Literacy Program

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Editor’s note: The Nepal Data Literacy Program is an initiative of ‘Partnership for Knowledge-Based Poverty Reduction and Shared Prosperity’, a World Bank project with support from DFID to increase production and usage of data and statistics in Nepal.

In late June, Pratikshya Sharma, a self-described data novice, told a room full of people that after a few days of attending the Nepal Data Literacy Program, she felt more confident in her data analysis abilities, and that these new skills will help enable her to make more informed decisions. The room erupted in cheers of support. 

Sharma’s story is one shared by over 75 Nepali professionals from across a diverse array of sectors. Together from June 23-July 4, they gathered to complete the first phase of the 100-hour Nepal Data Literacy Program organized by the World Bank in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The energy and strong sense of commitment by everyone who attended were infectious. With a near-perfect attendance throughout the ten days, these professionals were intent on becoming data literacy trainers who could transfer these skills to their respective communities.

In an increasingly data-driven world, we need to embrace a broader conception of ‘literacy’.  The World Bank has been collaborating with partners for years to support capacity development for more and better data literacy – that is, being able to find, analyze, and use data to make decisions, as a core skill for a cross-section of societal actors. In a country like Nepal, data literate stakeholders can play a significant role to help the country achieve its development objectives. 

Nepal is currently undergoing the most ambitious state restructuring in a generation by implementing a federal government system for the first time. As Faris Hadad-Zervos, Country Manager of World Bank for Nepal wrote in his recent opinion piece, in many ways, Nepal is “a new country with three tiers of government and a new social contract,” and there is a “pattern of hope, optimism and high expectations for a new Nepal.”

In a transition period like this, data literate stakeholders can proactively engage in evidence-based policymaking, improve public service delivery, increase transparency, and accelerate development progress in Nepal. As Faris has recognized, “data literacy for all is also the bedrock of Nepal’s transition to a federal system.” 

 

To ensure a sustainable transfer of data skills, World Bank colleagues and I accessed, adapted and contextualized key pedagogical resources from the World Bank Development Data Group’s Data Literacy Program, which has now been delivered in more than 30 countries around the world, with a range of partners. Through this collaborative effort, we developed and are now delivering a 100-hour face-to-face data literacy training for a carefully vetted cohort of mid-career professionals, so they themselves can become data literacy trainers. This is an exciting collaboration by World Bank teams and together, we’re delivering the first program of its kind in Nepal.

Furthermore, we collaborated with local partners to develop an open source Data Literacy portal to ensure everyone has access to these resources and content to develop their own skills or use them to train others. All of the content developed and published on the portal can be used freely and seamlessly both within and outside of Nepal.

“We have to work together to scale up data literacy with partners around the world, to help transform data into knowledge and action, and to drive development opportunities which really matter to people’s lives and livelihoods.”
Haishan Fu -- headshot
Haishan Fu
Director, Development Economics Data Group, World Bank Group

“Increasing data literacy is critical and I’m particularly glad to see that the Nepal Data Literacy Program is designed to be replicated and repurposed for delivery across Nepal, at the national and subnational levels, to help make data actionable and useful for decisions at all levels,” said Haishan Fu, the Director of The World Bank’s Development Data Group. She added that “we have to work together to scale up data literacy with partners around the world, to help transform data into knowledge and action, and to drive development opportunities which really matter to people’s lives and livelihoods.”

It is important to note that for many, learning how to use data can be intimidating. To better democratize data literacy, it is crucial to create capacity building programs that make learning data as systematic and accessible as possible. While designing the Nepal Data Literacy Program, we kept this in mind and ensured that regardless of one’s skill level, the participants will have an opportunity to learn while building a supportive, inclusive, and, fun community at the same time. 

Although Jhamak Gautam, a lean young man in his thirties, was hard of hearing, he was still able to fully participate in the program by using the data literacy platform through his laptop and working with fellow participants and World Bank Data Literacy instructors.

In a Tweet about his experiences with the program, Jhamak said that as a student, he struggled with math concepts and barely passed math classes but he was able to easily grasp the data concepts taught in the Nepal Data Literacy program. His fellow participants seemed to share the same sentiments.

When community members from across sectors of Nepal are data literate, they can better track and monitor progress made in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and their country’s development priorities such as ensuring health and education for all. In an increasingly complex world, data literacy skills are the essential key to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
 

The team is eager to hear your thoughts and experiences on how we can ensure data literacy for all. Please comment below.

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