Data Science Africa 2017: Supporting Young Talent in Data Science

Pulse Lab Kampala
Aug 10, 2017

Pulse Lab Kampala and participants from 60 different organizations came together for the third Data Science Africa workshop, which was held from 17th- 21st July 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Following the success of Data Science Africa 2016, which was hosted by Pulse Lab Kampala, this year, the workshop  was held at the Nelson Mandela-African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania, where its beautiful and scenic campus is overlooked by Mt. Meru, the fifth highest mountain in Africa.

In the tradition of previous Africa Data Science events, a summer school on machine learning and data science was held prior to the main workshop. The summer school targeted graduate students, researchers and professionals working with big  data and unique datasets.

The three-day summer school kicked-off with lectures from distinguished researchers and practitioners from Sheffield University, Amazon, the Swansea University Medical School, Facebook, Pulse Lab Kampala, the AI and Data Science (AIR) lab-Makerere University, ARM and the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT).

Some of the sessions provided tutorials on data science tools such as Jupyter and Pytorch. Other sessions delved deeply into topics like “Spatial Data Analysis,” “Data Visualisation,” and “Building Sensor Systems for Data Collection” drawing great inputs from both those who are new to the field and data science experts.

The summer school was designed to provide accessible and interactive lectures where participants with limited knowledge of data science could learn the basics of coding by testing simple classification techniques  such as decision tree, K-nearest neighbours, random forest, among others.

During the very popular practical session on “Building Sensor Systems for Data Collection” by Jan Jongboom (ARM), participants assembled a sensory device and connected it to the cloud. The next day, they got to  attach the sensors to cattle and other livestock in rural villages. More information on this project is available on Jan’s blog.

The summer school was followed by a data science workshop, which was attended by over 116 participants  from 14 different countries and featured 33 presentations and panel discussions during a two-day period. The presentations covered the breadth of data science applications in various development areas in Africa from health, politics, wildlife, cloud services, to social media, media mining, agriculture, geospatial modelling, and many more. For instance, presentations such as “Air quality monitoring in Uganda”, “A Weather Forecasting Model for Farmers in Arusha”, “Mobile Phone Data for Disasters Management” showed how ideas can be transformed into practical applications.

During the workshop Pulse Lab Kampala gave an update to the data community on the progress of  the “radio mining and rapid-deployment speech technology for humanitarian early warning in Uganda” project and introduced some of its recent findings.

The Data Science Africa 2017 Initiative was organized by partners from Amazon, ARM, Nelson Mandela-African Institute of Science And Technology (NM-AIST), Makerere University (Uganda), The University of Sheffield (UK), and the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology Nyeri (Kenya).  

Thanks to growing support and interest, Data Science Africa will continue in 2018 with two separate events in Nyeri, Kenya and Abuja, Nigeria. The aim is to include other parts of Africa in this event thereby expanding its partnership and collaboration across the African region. Furthermore, the aim is to allow more young innovators and data scientists to engage in the discussion around the  use of new data sources in achieving the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and humanitarian action.

Related Links:

  • Full agenda of Data Science Africa 2017
  • Videos from Data Science Africa 2017
  • Blogpost by Damon Civin, Principal Data Scientist at ARM
  • Blogpost by Vukosi Marivate, Senior Researcher, CSIR