The potential for 5G use cases is broad, with every industry looking at how the technology can advance their business. While the timing is still in flux, however, one thing is for sure: When 5G arrives, it will spell a new era of connectivity. An era that will open up opportunities for new services while also delivering more data, more devices and more instant responses.
According to leading analyst firm Omdia, 5G is expected to have a bigger impact on the global economy than previous iterations, contributing more than $13 trillion in sales activity worldwide by 2035.
Consumers can expect faster connections, streaming and downloads; improved customer experiences; and more support for emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality.
Various benefits are being touted across industries too. Here are just a few:
- Helping public sector bodies to improve services such as traffic managemen.
- Underpinning technology that allows medical professionals to practice surgery in virtual worlds.
- Enabling manufacturers to ramp up industrial automation and open new revenue streams.
But with more data comes greater responsibility. And are we really prepared for this? To be successful in an increasingly digital world means becoming an organization that is fully data-driven and operating in real-time — just look at the likes of Netflix, Disney and Zoom, which are succeeding even in today’s strained economy.
Such enterprises are not only delivering services on demand and at speed, they’re breaking away from the pack by merging data and analytics to provide truly innovative and impactful solutions. Achieving this synthesis and analysis demands an array of technology that can not only handle data but also enhance the way we interact with it.
In short, we can introduce new technologies: 5G is one example, but also the likes of 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and metadata catalogs. But unless there is a heavy shift in how we approach working with data, we will not see the true benefits from them.
Being Truly Data-Driven Requires Data Literacy
There are many organizations across sectors that are still struggling to achieve the digital transformation expected in Industry 4.0. Though data can be incredibly powerful when used across a business, too few companies are investing in their employees to use it effectively within their roles.
In fact, a recent study commissioned by Accenture and Qlik on the human impact of data literacy found that while 67 percent of the global workforce have access to business intelligence tools and 75 percent have access to data analytics software, just 21 percent of the global workforce are fully confident in their data literacy skills — i.e. their ability to read, understand, question and work with data.
The main obstacle to succeed in the digital world isn’t technology or data, it has to do with people. Organizations must not only provide improved access to data and the tools to harness valuable insights from it, but they must also engrain stronger data skills and a new culture. This is the only way to empower data-driven decision-making across the entire organization and be able to truly reap the benefits that new advances can bring.
Without this understanding, organizations will stand still — no matter the all-singing, all-dancing technologies such as 5G at their fingertips.
As David Miller, a senior manager at Accenture with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, notes in the same study: “Employers often don’t know how to support their employees to develop the competencies needed for adopting new technologies, which has contributed to stress in the modern workplace. But we are now at a tipping point with data, where we understand how we can empower a data-democratized workforce, and business leaders must make it a reality in their own organizations.”
Engraining Data Literacy Into Organizational Culture
Changing the culture of an organization is hardly an easy feat. It requires a shift of mindsets, where people not only accept that data is part of their roles, but they embrace and feel empowered by it. So what does this actually mean in practice? Businesses can easily get lost in addressing data literacy, but there are three key areas that a program should focus on:
- Leadership: There must be executive buy-in for any data literacy program to succeed. That’s because leaders are best placed to set the tone and agenda for cultural change, marking how to measure it, conveying its progress and extolling its virtues.
- Tailored Learning: No person is the same, so businesses cannot approach a data literacy program with a one-size-fits-all mantra. People learn at different speeds and in different ways, requiring leaders to provide for differing learning experiences that nurture data literacy growth across that spectrum.
- Curiosity, Creativity and Critical Thinking: The “Three Cs of Data Literacy” form the foundational pillars of nearly all data literacy programs, and it’s essential to foster them. There should be a strong desire among employees to know, understand and engage in divergent and novel thinking. This is more likely to occur when the tenets of such thinking are embedded in every part of a data literacy program.
Preparing for the World of 5G and Beyond
As we move on to the next generation of technologies such as 5G, it is essential that leaders create a data-literate foundation that will make investing in them worthwhile. The best place to start is by diagnosing where an organization falls on the data literacy spectrum, then working holistically with a business intelligence partner toward making the necessary improvements. It’s no longer enough to drop tools on users and hope for the best. Without considering the human side of data and technology, leaders will not be able to deliver true impact to their business or their customers.
When we look around us, it is easy to separate those organizations that have embraced the digital transformation that Industry 4.0 has to offer and those that have not. They have realized that only by connecting data together with analytics will they have a winning formula. And data literacy is an essential component of driving that formula forward.