What can data science do for Africa? 

By: SALLY CHRISTMAS


posted on: January 28th, 2020

WHAT IS DATA?

A piece of information can be called a “datum”. If you have more than one datum, you can call it a set of “data”. The height of one person is a “datum”, and the heights of a group of people is a set of “data”. Most of the time, data refers to information stored as numbers.

WHAT IS DATA SCIENCE?

Data science is  the study of different data sets. Often, a set of data will be huge, containing very large amounts of information. This can make it difficult to study, because there is so much information to think about. To make it easier, scientists use computers and special data science programmes to help understand this information.

WHY IS DATA SCIENCE USEFUL?

When scientists study a set of data, they look for patterns that might teach us new things. What we learn depends on what type of data we have to study. For example, if a set of data showed that people who eat a certain food live longer, we might discover that type of food has a lot of health benefits.

We have to be careful about making bold claims just from data alone. It might just be a coincidence that people who eat a certain type of food live longer – more scientists would need to investigate before we could be sure that type of food was really good for you.

HOW CAN DATA SCIENCE BE USED IN AFRICA?

Because Africa is so big and so diverse, it can be difficult for scientists to study how certain issues affect different people. Data science can make this easier, as scientists can choose to look at whatever parts of the data they want.

For example, data science can be used to improve healthcare in Africa. By collecting information about which illnesses affect which areas the most, scientists can work out how to spread resources so that more people get the care that they need. This could be especially useful in rural, isolated communities, where getting to a doctor can be difficult.

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF DATA SCIENCE IN AFRICA?

Today, fewer than 1 in 10 Africans under the age of 25 have access to higher education (university level education). This is because many cannot afford it. But as more of Africa gets access to the internet, there are hopes that people could study online from their homes. This would mean they could still earn money from their normal jobs. Data science is something that can be taught online particularly well. As a result, there are hopes that Africa could soon have a new generation of data scientists.

In recent years, more and more data science research has been taking place in Africa. In the future, it is likely that we will rely on data science even more to help us solve real life problems.

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