Be smart, skilled and en vogue
It is undeniable, we have entered into the information age, the era of big data and with it has come the dawn of the young, vibrant and talented modern statistician. No matter what you call us – statistical scientists, data scientists, or analysts – statisticians are a diverse group of people with one thing in common: we use the science of statistics to draw valuable insights from data. In today’s data-rich world, the demand for this unique brand of mathematically gifted individuals continues to increase and is projected to grow at a faster than average rate.
In 2009, Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, declared that: “[t]he sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous [i.e., present, appearing, or found everywhere] data. So the complimentary factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.”
Fast-forward seven years later and we now know for a fact that the ability to learn from data is one of the most heavily demanded skills among industry leaders and governments.
Statistics is the science of learning from data. It involves the collection, organisation, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data. It lies at the heart of important advances in the sciences and decision making in business, public policy and sports. Statistics may be combined with many other disciplines to make a lasting and meaningful impact on the world in which we live.
DATA SKILLS ARE IMPORTANT
Today, not only do students need to learn reading, writing and arithmetic; they also need to have the skills to learn from data. Statistical literacy is an essential skill that transcends borders and disciplines. A competent statistician or data analyst can easily find gainful employment in many countries and in a number of different fields of work.
Almost every part of life today has been touched by the data revolution, from weather forecasts to social interaction and dating, social media to marketing campaigns, from business meetings to household electronics and appliances, and even the vehicles we drive and our daily workout. Almost everything we do today produces data. As such, the ability to organise, analyse and identify patterns in the mountains of data that are being produced at an alarming rate, is a skill that is indispensable in the modern world. When used correctly, statistics help us to identify trends or patterns in the data, it helps us to understand what happened in the past and is useful in helping to predict what may happen in the future.
No longer is the statistician confined to a monotonous, numbercrunching, lacklustre experience. No longer is the average statistician a dishevelled old man with thick glasses labouring tirelessly, crunching numbers and stressing over mind-boggling equations. Statistical science now holds a prominent place in many of the most exciting and innovative fields. Statistics is now young, vibrant and
In social media, the number of likes, comments, reviews, etc. are used to inform market researchers of the viability of implementing campaigns such as events coverage, advertisements and product placement. In sports, statistics and analytics are being used to inform the decisions of coaches in terms of which players are to be added to the team, which players should start, and which players are most effective coming off the bench. It is statistics that enables us to differentiate between the fastest man alive and the man with the most sub-10 clockings. In finance, statistical knowledge informs the decision to buy or sell stocks, how long to keep them, and where to invest to yield the largest returns. Locally, our financial institutions use the information derived from data to forecast earnings, make new investments and determine risks. In medicine, statistics informs doctors of the most probable treatment option for successful recovery. It also helps governments to understand the spread of diseases in order to implement appropriate responses, and how best to respond in the event of a disaster.
Statistics is essential for individuals, businesses and governments to determine the most probable option for success. Information provides a competitive advantage that the shrewd entrepreneur and wise policymaker simply cannot ignore. Whether or not a country develops is significantly influenced by its ability to obtain and understand its economic, social and environmental conditions. This determination is based primarily on data produced by entities such as its National Statistics Office (NSO). In our case, the NSO is the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). Statistics on unemployment and inflation informs fiscal and monetary policy, which helps to determine the direction the economy takes. Information on international trade and balance of payments speak to the country’s current account balance and gives insight into the amount of foreign exchange required for the normal functioning of the economy. Statistics on poverty and production inform strategies for social protection and economic development. The statistician is able to make a significant impact on the world around them, by turning data into useful information.
As data continue to grow, the demand for statisticians and analysts will continue to increase. This will happen as people move away from making decisions on a whim and move towards evidence-based decisionmaking. Statistics is the key to unlocking information, will you help to open the door? LEESHA DELATIE-BUDAIR Director, Research, Design and Evaluation