Data Science Nigeria hosted its industry engagement summit and a four-day, intensive, all-expense paid Bootcamp from 12-15 October 2017 at the Peninsula Resort in the Lekki axis of Lagos. Featuring a hands-on focus on machine learning algorithms, engineering statistics, and the broad principles of data science applications in solving real word problems, the sessions were facilitated by seven Ph.D. data scientists as either on-site tutors or dial-in instructors from the US and Canada. The learning sessions were spiced up with three ongoing hackathons aimed to stimulate the 150 participants, who qualified for the Bootcamp through pre-qualification exams on Microsoft/Edx Data Science MOOC series and DataCamp followed by a public Kaggle competition.
In his welcome address, the Bootcamp convener, Mr. Bayo Adekanmbi, MTN’s Chief Transformation Officer, said “We must focus on world-class capacity building in a consistent and rigorous manner if we truly want to build high-impact analytics products that can accelerate our national development and position Nigeria to become the data science hub for the continent, with the potential to access as much as 10% of the global data analytics outsourcing market, which is expected to garner $5.9 billion by 2020”.
The Bootcamp included very intensive hands-on classes, group learning sessions, and three individual hackathons. One of the hackathons on students’ performance prediction was won by Adeola Balogun, a young female 400-level Computer Science undergraduate from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. At the award ceremony, Adeola said, “I only started taking data science three weeks ago, but I have carefully followed the instructions and guidance provided by the instructor to become the first on the competition leaderboard.”
Adeola Balogun began programming in Python during her 200-level classes. She is passionate about encouraging ladies interested in programming in Python, and she complements her academic studies by working as an intern with the Elo Umeh-led Terragon Group. She is also an advocate for the Women Techmakers movement, and a Google Ambassador on her campus. The other top four participants in the Kaggle competition are Chibueze Oguejiofor, Onimisi Esho, Sarah Adeola, and Aminu Onimisi Abdulsalami.
According to the participants, the Bootcamp was an eye-opening, skill sharpening, and rigorous experience that provided a full immersion in the realities of the field. Data Science has been rated the number one career in the USA today, according to Glassdoor’s Best Jobs in America list for both 2016 and 2017.
The Bootcamp participants also had the chance to learn from leading industry experts, who shared real-world information about the intersection of data science and machine learning for solving business problems. Mr. Ladi Aduni, Associate Director, Technology Advisory KPMG led the briefing on the KPMG-sponsored Segmentation Hackathon at the Bootcamp. The hackathon required participants to use unsupervised learning to group banking customers based on many unrelated variables. The top-rated participants in this hackathon will qualify for internships and possible job placements at KPMG Nigeria.
Mr. Ngozi Dozie of OneFi discussed how to build industry-ready algorithms that can solve real-world problems, using the example of how weather forecasting correlates with loan defaults. He said, “When the weather is bad, people default more on their loans, and data science must be able to explore other non-obvious variables in making business prediction solutions”. Mr. Usoro Usoro, General Manager of Digital Financial Services at MTN Nigeria engaged the participants on how to leverage the robust intelligence of big data algorithms to unravel local opportunities in the payments and lending fields.
To underscore how social media provided a platform for the Bootcamp’s followers’ engagement, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education, followed the event in real-time on Twitter. She challenged the participants to drive the structural shift that the 2nd Machine Age has made imperative and advocated increasing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for girls. She commended Adeola Balogun for winning the hackathon and for proving that women are smarter when it comes to logic-based disciplines like algorithm development.
The seven experts who facilitated the classes focussed on various aspects of big data applications. Dr. Raphael Yemitan of PwC explored the fundamental principles of feature engineering in a data science project, while Dr. Sulaimon Afolabi, a leading data scientist from South Africa, led a step-by-step class in the fundamental theories of data science from the perspectives of statistics and machine learning.
South African-based Corne Nagel, Chief Data Scientist with OneFi, explored both the bottom-up and top-down approaches to model development using an exciting demonstration of the Zeppelin software, and the hands-on use of automatic machine learning via the DataRobot platform. He also kicked off the second hackathon, on credit risk scoring.
Professor Raj Krishnan, a Microsoft Azure expert and adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, led a hands-on immersion in machine learning using the cloud-based Azure platform. Dr. Johnson Iyilade, the Founder, and CEO of Glomacs IT
Solutions and Services contributed from Canada, exploring how we have moved from a system-centric to a user-centric connected data architecture, featuring practical explorations of the major big data technologies (Hadoop, HDFS, MapReduce, etc.). Wale Akinfaderin, a doctoral researcher, and expert data scientist dialed in from the USA to discuss feature engineering, data preparation, overfitting, and managing missing data (including mean, median, mode, regressed value and even nearest neighbor values). Dr. Ponmile Oloyede, a computational physicist, and USA-based finance modeling expert showed many practical use cases for big data in everyday life and introduced Rattle as a simple R interface.
The Bootcamp also included a gala night, during which the top performers from the Kaggle competitions, Mr. and Ms. Algorithms (individuals who epitomise values of leadership, excellence, and team-spirit), Ph.D. participants, Bootcamp instructors, and volunteers were recognized with gifts, awards, and accolades. Bootcamp participants came from far and near; over 65% were from outside Lagos. Major clusters of attendees include Owerri (FUTO), Kaduna (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria) and the southwest (Ibadan, Ile Ife, Ogbomosho, Abeokuta, and Ilorin) among other locations.
The industry engagement summit and the Bootcamp were supported by Microsoft, 4Afrika, Interswitch, Diamond Bank, OneFi, L5Lab, Keoun.ng, KPMG, ProShare Nigeria, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, DataCamp, BusinessDay, CFATech.ng, BrandCrunch and the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa.