Data (open or otherwise) needs to be used, and to use data effectively requires certain skills.1
The explosive growth in data, especially open data, in recent years has meant that the demand for data skills — for data “wranglers”2 or “scientists” — has been growing rapidly. Moreover, these skills aren’t just important for banks, supermarkets or the next silicon valley start-up, they are also going to be cruicial in reserach, in journalism, and in civil society organizations (CSOs).
However, there is currently a significant shortfall of data “wranglers” to satisfy this growing demand, especially in civil society organisations — McKinsey expects a skills shortage in data expertise to reach 50-60% by 2018 in the US alone.3
Most formal training for data skills still takes place as part of formal statistics or mathematics programmes. It will be years before data specialist degree paths become broadly available and accepted, and even then, time-intensive degree courses may not be the right option for journalists, activists, or computer programmers who just need to add data skills to their existing expertise.
What is needed are flexible, on-demand, shorter learning options for people who are actively working in areas that benefit from data skills, particularly those who may have already left formal education programmes.