OPTIMISM AS DATA SCIENCE AFRICA LAUNCHES UGANDA CHAPTER
By Mulengera Reporters
There is a lot of optimism among players in Uganda’s technology sector after Data Science Africa (DSA), a network of data science professionals and enthusiasts focused on developing contextual data science solutions for African challenges, officially launched its Ugandan chapter.
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The launch, which took place at the Nakawa-based ICT Hub, which is run by Dr. Chris Baryomunsi’s Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, was attended by representatives from the line Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Central Government, legislators, development partners including those from the UN; members of the academia and students. The interim members of the DSA Uganda Chapter were also in attendance.
Several Ugandan institutions and private sector players have already started harnessing data using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and simple analytics to inform decision making. However, there is still a lot of potential that remains untapped in as far as the opportunities presented by AI and data science are concerned.
The launch of the Ugandan Chapter of DSAU is expected to help exhibit and popularize Uganda’s milestones in the fields of artificial Intelligence, data science and innovation. It is also hoped that DSA will work towards bringing together partners and players in the fields. “This launch is similarly meant to increase interest, awareness and ownership in data science among stakeholders and also communicate the agenda of the local chapter so that people can be aware of what is available on offer and stimulate discussion on partnership,” added DSAU in its launch statement.
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It should be noted that DSA, a network of data science professionals and enthusiasts, has previously facilitated up to 10 week-long events in countries that included Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. DSA also runs research grants, African AI research awards, visiting fellowships and mentorship programmes.
According to chapter committee members, DSAU will not only replicate DSA programmes but will also introduce more to meet the local needs. DSA Uganda has already convened four events attracting participation from over 28 academics institutions, 23 government MDAs, 26 private sector companies and 14 from other categories. Martin Gordon Mubangizi, the General Chair for DSAU, explained that the organization was founded in 2015 and was hosted by Uganda in 2016 and, virtually in 2020 during the Covid19 pandemic. Mubangizi emphasized that the main aim of DSAU is “to grow the next generation of data scientists in Africa to solve African problems.”
Officiating at the launch, ICT Ministry Permanent Secretary Dr. Amina Zawedde noted that the Insights derived from data can inform effective, evidence-based policy-making, improve the provision of public services in pursuit of national and regional priorities, and catalyze economic growth and opportunity in the private sector.
She revealed that about a fortnight before today’s launch, she attended the 10th Data Science Africa event hosted at the Institute of Accountancy in Arusha. At the event which was attended by presenters and participants from more than seven African countries who shared their perspectives on the role of data in agriculture, health, environment and conservation, and natural language processing (NLP). PS Zawedde further noted that she was very impressed that Uganda was well represented by universities such as Busitema, Makerere, and Mbarara University of Science and Technology, staff from the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, as well as officials from Pulse Lab Kampala, Sunbird AI, and NSSF.
She was also pleased to learn that DSA had historically been sponsored by giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Deep mind, and ARM. Zawedde also saluted the DSA Uganda Chapter launch sponsors such as NSSF (Gold Sponsor), Uganda Christian University and Fair Forward (Bronze Sponsors).
The Permanent Secretary described the launch of DSAU as timely since it was done at a time after National Development Plan III has identified several skill gaps around data and AI, including data analytics, machine learning, business intelligence, and robotics.
“In collaboration with partners, the Ministry of ICT and NG is working on many initiatives to create an enabling environment for Data and AI in Uganda. These include the National 4IR Strategy, the ethical AI framework and the data exchange platform,” the PS further explained.
“These initiatives will ensure that the government of Uganda and its citizens can maximize benefits from emerging technologies while protecting citizens from harm from their usage. In addition, these initiatives will also ensure increased access to, use, and reuse of data.”
Prof Tony Oyana, the Principal of the College of Computing and Information Sciences at Makerere University, noted that universities and higher education institutions were early adapters of AI and data science initiatives. He was optimistic that DSAU would help in further advancing the adoption of artificial intelligence and data science in the country. Dr. Hatwib Mugasa, the Executive Director of NITA-U, said the launch of DSAU was a step in the right direction in as far as transformation of Uganda’s digital services such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to undertake initiatives such as digitization of national identity cards is concerned. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).