Kazeem Hakeem, a graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University and Obinna Onuoha, also a graduate of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, have won a scholarship for their Master of Science (M.Sc) programmes at Stellenbosch University, South Africa courtesy of the Data Science Nigeria (DSN) intercampus Machine Learning BootCamp 2019 prize.
Microsoft (4Afrika) and BlueChip Technologies Limited, respectively, presented the awards to the duo at the grand finale held on November 23 at the University of Lagos (Unilag).
Data Scientists used to work predominantly in the tech industry at companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and LinkedIn, but in the last few years, nearly every industry has begun to realize the value of utilizing their data in strategic decision-making.
The fields of telecommunications, banking, e-commerce, medicine, retail, construction, and transportation/mobility are all facing massive increases in their need for data scientists.
The supply of skilled applicants, however, is growing at a slower pace. Taking the bull by the horn, Data Science Nigeria (DSN) has rolled out a roadmap to raise 1million Data Scientists, particularly in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the next 10 years.
As part of this commitment to make Nigeria the Data Science Hub in the world, DSN launched the first Artificial Intelligence Book for Nigerian Primary and Secondary Schools at its 2019 AI Summit in Lagos. DSN also conveyed the Intercampus Machine Learning Bootcamp with 26 international and 13 local experts on the ground to tutor the 230 participants.
Rising Odegua won Retina-AI’s Best Postal Award; the University of Lagos emerged AI School of the Year; Rising Odegua and Adeola Lawal won Terragon Group’s Mr & Miss Algorithm Awards.
“I have always wished to get a Masters Degree in Data Science or Artificial Intelligence. So, I am saying a big thank you to DSN”.
To Obinna, “Last year, I qualified for the bootcamp and got inspired. I went back to learn more. This year, the qualification process was crazy. To make it to the bootcamp, we had to build an algorithm to predict the staff that would get promoted for a particular company using data. During the bootcamp, we had a quiz competition and the top two students were picked and it happened that I am one of them.
“I can’t really say this is how I feel because the whole thing is just overwhelming. The first thought that came into my mind was to call my mum”.
The Convener, Data Science Nigeria, Dr. Olubayo Adekanmbi, explained that the bootcamp was one of the means to harness talents and build a formidable Data Science community in Nigeria.
He said, “If we do not address AI capacity today, we may go into another cycle of what I call digital slavery because we do not have skills that makes us capable in developing solutions that solve our problem.
“So this is the responsibility that we have carried out as data scientist and of course we are supported by many organization including Microsoft, Retina-AI, Softcom, Bluechip Technologies, MainOne, Carbon, Terragon, Axa Mansard. Facebook, Carbon, BigML and GRID3/Flowminder UK also sent in their expert”.
Continuing with the awards, Raheem Nasirudeen won Axa Mansards’ Best Participant in the Insurance Kaggle Competition prize while Sarah Adigwe won MainOne Best Female Data Scientist award.
The Chief Semantic Architect / Knowledge Engineer at Cymantiks Nigeria Limited, Mr. Emeka Okoye and Acting Director, Centre for Information Technology and Systems(CITS), University of Lagos, Dr Victor Odumuyiwa; the CEO & Co-Founder, Octave Analytics, Blessing Oladeji, and Bayo Aderibigbe, were among those recognised with ‘Industry Support Award’.
The CEO, Terragon Group, Elo Umeh while commending DSN for the efforts to harness talents in the ecosystem, said, “Essentially, it was very much important for us to participate in this DSN AI Summit and the bootcamp. It has been very rewarding for us because we have been able to see the great work going on at DSN. We thought it would also be a way for us to contribute to the growth of the industry.
As an emerging space in Nigeria, there is a limitation of talents.
“So, at the DSN bootcamp a lot of talents have been identified and that is why Terragon Group is sponsoring two people to Tunisia; these are part of our efforts to support the talents grooming process to develop the ecosystem”
We see a great future for Africa – Microsoft
On his part, Developer Audience Lead for Africa, Microsoft, Lawrence Muthanga said, “We see a great future for Africa. We have a lot of problems and data. What we lack are people who will sit in-between the two; knowing the problems and see the solutions from the data that are being created. With the skills that we have seen here, we are about to see a great change on the Continent”.
Solving local challenges
CEO, BlueChip Technologies Limited, Kazeem Tewogbade, explained why they are supporting DSN thus, “…we care about creating awareness. If you start early (from the University) to gain knowledge, the better of you becoming a specialist. So, if you come to the industry it will be easier for us to bring you in.
“Data Science is an ‘application technology’. In other words, you can apply it in any human endeavour like climate impact, banking, telecoms, even in government, either to optimise or improve the system.”
Speaking on why MainOne rewarded the ‘Best Female Data Scientist, the Company Product Manager, Mojide Aluko, said, “MainOne is a believer in developing the capacity of young Nigerians. MainOne believes that one of the greatest potentials Nigeria has is her people. With a population of about 200 million we understand that these people will be the wealth-builders of the nation. Therefore, we need to develop the capacity of these people, especially the girl-child because MainOne also recognises that empowering a woman is a means to improve the family and the society at large.
“We are happy to associate with Data Science Nigeria (DSN) because we have seen the strives they have achieved in a matter of years”.
DSN is the fastest growing and the most organic, energetic Data Science Community- Retina-AI
The CEO, Retina-AI, Dr. Stephen Odaibo gave an assessment of DSN growth, describing them as fastest growing and the most organic, energetic Data Science Community in the world.
In his words, “So, in terms of Data Science Nigeria, I came in from Houston and have been involved with the team for a while, and in my assessment, DSN is the fastest growing and the most organic, energetic Data Science Community in the world. It is also a very organised, clearly focused idea in terms of the roadmap.
“The growth recorded has been strategic. Now, with the launching of the book on AI and python programming for elementary and junior secondary school students in Nigeria by Olubayo Adekanmbi, it is the first in Africa and one of the reference books in the world; only India and China have similar books in the past. That shows you that this is a movement in the right direction and when you look at the people the pre-qualification challenge that was done last year with 530 registrations, it is an exponential growth compared to 200 of last year.
“The impacts will continue to grow, especially with the AI invasion.
The data scientist role has evolved over the years. Ten years ago, the job title “data scientist” had just emerged, although companies had been working with data long before then.
Today, data scientists are doing the work of data analysis, management, and visualization, combined with statistics, engineering, and project management. Massive quantities of data are readily available, and data scientists can use machine learning models and statistical tools to draw inferences from the data.