Data enthusiast to data expert: resources for aspiring data scientists

Data enthusiast to data expert: resources for aspiring data scientists

July 17, 2018    

Business executives in Africa frequently bemoan the difficulty in hiring local data science talent. And so, when we advertised for aspiring and experienced data scientists to participate in the insight2impact DataHack4FI Season 2 competition, we were pleased to receive applications from over 190 people.

Across the continent, it seems young people are eager to join the “sexiest job of the 21st Century”.

With relatively few local tertiary institutions offering dedicated data science qualifications, Africa-based data scientists tend to have varied backgrounds and many of them have either studied abroad or are self-taught in the sense that they have pieced together a range of online courses after completing an undergraduate degree. A typical data scientist might have majored in computer science, mathematics or statistics and a combination of these skills is useful.

Here are some links to courses for those looking to improve their data skills and networks for those wishing to link to other Africans with an interest in data. The list is not exhaustive, and we would love to hear recommendations on courses and networks from readers who are data scientists.

Online courses via sites such as Coursera, edX and Udacity. (Note that whereas several of these courses are available free of charge, there is often a cost for certification). Here are some options:

(Some) formal courses at tertiary institutions. In researching this list, it wasn’t easy to identify tertiary institutions in Africa that offer a data science degree (email me if you have details of some), although obviously many African universities offer qualifications in computer science, mathematics or statistics. Some of the options include:

Associations, alliances and data labs. The growing network of data-related alliances reflects shared interest in the field and it is worth having a look at the following to see whether you can participate. We have also included some labs and networks that don’t primarily or exclusively relate to the development of data-science skills, but which focus on the use of data to solve societal challenges (and therefore serve as a playground for people looking to have fun with data).

  • Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa (MIA) is a forum dedicated to building the machine intelligence and data science community in Africa. The website hosts an extensive list of data science resources.
  • Data Science Africa (DSA) acts as a resource hub for data science research. A Data Science Africa event has been scheduled for November 2018 in Nigeria (Summer School on Machine Learning and Data Science).
  • Data Science Nigeria is a network that facilitates mentoring of young Nigerians through face-to-face, virtual coaching classes, project-based support and holiday boot camps with a view to applying machine learning to solving social and business challenges. The theme for 2018 is big data for digital/financial inclusion.
  • Code 4 Africa describes itself as “a people-driven movement that aims to empower active citizenry and strengthen civic watchdogs to help government shape and improve its services to citizens”. It emphasises open data and the analysis of available datasets for public good. According to its website, It supports “citizen labs’ in nine countries and major projects in a further 15 countries”. See whether they have something running locally.
  • Pulse Lab Kampala is a UN innovation lab for the application of data analysis in solving developmental challenges.
  • Tanzania Data Lab (dLab) has an open working space where data can be shared and analysed for the benefit of civil society.
  • kLab in Rwanda, which is another open space for IT entrepreneurs, places a strong emphasis on data through its affiliates and activities. For those who (like i2i staff) have an interest in data science as it intersects with financial sector innovation, kLab is building a fintech cluster.

Online data challenges (pit your skills against other to identify areas of expertise or potential improvement).

  • Kaggle is a popular site for challenges
  • Keep an eye out for the launch of African data-for-good challenge platform Zindi (to be launched by Ixio Analytics).

Online platforms act as virtual communities enabling you to find people with similar interests.

Other networks or virtual communities. These include various general data-related WhatsApp groups and  Facebook developer circles or specialist groups like BlackinAI. We are really excited to launch a Facebook community for those share our interest in data and tech for good in the financial sector. We are reaching out directly to those who participated in our DataHack4FI competition but if those topics get you excited you should apply to join!

 


insight2impact (i2ifacility) was funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. The programme was established and driven by Cenfri and Finmark Trust.

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