As a charity passionate about African science and technology, we are always trying to find ways of linking cutting edge scientific debates and issues to the continent’s academics and innovators. While much has been said about the data revolution and the benefits big and open data, there has been little discussion around how it can boost Africa’s scientific development in a practical way.
To this end, we are hosting the first ever Africa Data Challenge as part of our Science Africa UnConference on November 18. The Africa Data Challenge is a groundbreaking competition that invites innovators from around the world to pitch their ideas for projects that can help translate and transmit the power of data to those on the continent. Projects are unlimited in scope and focus, but must be designed to have a practical, human application in the next 12 months. Contestants will present their project live in front of a panel that includes Beejaye Kokil, Head of the Economic & Social Statistics Division, African Development Bank, David Tempest, Head of Director of Access Relations, Elsevier, Richard Pilling, Director, Director of Professional Services & Analytics (EMEA and APAC), Intel and Mariéme Jamme, entrepreneur and CEO of SpotOne Global. The successful innovators will be rewarded with a cash prize of £7,000 and receive PEI’s support to roll out their project.
We have been completely blown away by the calibre and ambition of the applications we have received for the competition! After much deliberation, we have whittled down the entries to five standout contestants. Best of luck to these innovators as they battle it out next Tuesday!
Ernest Mwebaze, Makerere University, Uganda
Ernest Mwebaze is a Lecturer of Computer Science at the School of Computing and Informatics Technology, Makerere University in Uganda. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. At present, his research falls under the Artificial Intelligence in Developing Countries (AIDEV) research group, which is actively researching mobile-device-based survey methodology for crop diseases, among other topics. His project for the ‘Africa Data Challenge’ focuses on improving the application of data-enabled solutions to local problems through student projects and workshops.
Mary Olushoga, AWP Network Agropreneur Project
Mary Olushoga is a member of the AWP Network Agropreneur Project, a workshop-based training project set to use quantitative and qualitative data to inform and help women farmers to improve farming techniques, practices, as well as increase yield and production at a reduced cost. During the ‘Africa Data Challenge’, she will pitch for funding to provide female farmers who are part of the AWP Network Agropreneur Project with opportunities to support their business growth and development. This includes a three-day practical training session on irrigation rice farming, post-training extension services, a network of women farmers across Nigeria amongst other things. What’s more, the AWP Network Agropreneur Project will use the data collected during these activities to inform the Ministry of Agriculture and other stakeholders of the services that women farmers need.
Dr Jelena Aleksic (University of Cambridge, UK), Mrs Ibukun Akinrinade (University of Bingham, Nigeria), Dr Sarah Hoey (TReND in Africa)
Dr. Jelena Aleksic, Mrs. Ibukun Akinrinade, and Dr. Sarah Hoey are part of TReND, a non-profit organisation run entirely by volunteer scientists at universities worldwide that works to achieve sustainable development in Africa through the promotion of scientific research, education and more. Next Tuesday, TReND will pitch their idea for a project that aims to foster a new generation of data analysts with a deep understanding of the biology, as well as analytical skills to effectively utilize the genomics datasets. Given the low cost of computing infrastructure, they believe this is an ideal area of research for ambitious African scientists.
Dr. Andrew Harrison, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and the Kenyan National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Andrew Harrison is a senior lecturer at the University of Essex where he lectures on a range of science topics including Mathematics, Physics and Bioinformatics. Partnering with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) + Kenyan National Academy of Sciences (KNAS), he is pitching for funds to host a RDA-CODATA educational workshop on Data Science at JKUAT, building on the success of earlier training sessions within ‘Workshop on Open Data for Science and Sustainability in Developing Countries’. He writes that his proposed workshop will provide an opportunity to develop plans for further training activities. In addition these activities will provide a focus for support from the international research data sharing and accessibility community, to help grow activities at JKUAT, KNAS and other institutions in Kenya and surrounding countries. Their objective is to embed data science teaching in JKUAT and then at other Kenyan institutions. Through this they will develop the enhanced data skills for science that Kenyan scientists need to make better use of their country’s own data resources.
Andrew Lamb, World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) and the Federation of African Engineering Organisations (FAEO)
Andrew Lamb is a practising engineer and a consultant for the WFEO, an international non-government organisation that represents the engineering profession at a global level. He will pitch for a project that will collect headline data on on engineers in Africa, and any historical data, for the first time. The data will be validated and published in a new open dashboard and index. He argues that accurate and thorough data on engineers will allow governments to improve academic training opportunities as well as other benefits.
In the longer term, Lamb argues that tracking how many engineers a country has will allow it to plan its infrastructure, economic development and its climate resilience more effectively– and begin to create a virtuous circle of engineering education and investment that accelerates human development.