For Data Science to work for Africa we need to have it fashioned to African context – EDSA First Graduation

Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) graduation ceremony held at the Belmont Square in Cape Town, South Africa.

Speaking during the recent Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) graduation ceremony held at the Belmont Square in Cape Town, South Africa. Development economist and radio presenter, Ayabonga Cawe said:

Siri can’t even pronounce my surname,” lamented the Xhosa speaking Cawe. However, he was quick to point out that that was a tremendous opportunity for all the emerging fintech entrepreneurs.

Cawe was speaking while addressing the first cohort of graduate from the EDSA academy. He was urging the graduates to harness the power of data science and put it in an African context for the greater good of driving forward the development of the economies of their immediate surroundings.

EDSA was graduating 94 students from its first intake of learners who undertook the 12-months-long Accredited Data Science Skills program. EDSA registers a 100% pass rate. Something that is nothing short of a tremendous achievement given the majority of the learners had only matric skills at the time of starting the program.

The full/empty mentality of 20th Century industrialists and manufacturers is a thing of the past – despite the best efforts of our politicians to drive this agenda in setting policy,” said Cawe. “We should be looking instead at models of education and skills development that embrace continuous learning and the notion of a livelihood as opposed to training for a job.”

He further continued, “Tech has enabled vast areas of our lives to be measured in an unprecedented way. Some services are predicated on the handing over of personal information, which can be used exploitatively, or for the greater good.”

Cawe challenged the graduates to go back to their communities and use the data science skills they have learned in addressing challenges facing those communities. He also encouraged them to share their experiences and knowledge with others around them in order to unlock the full potential of data science.

Dave Strugnell, the co-Founder of EDSA was quick to share his joy at the performance of the graduates during their 12-month training period.

Data science is the new frontier in the digital economy and we have been encouraged by the aptitude of our learners for the tools and the thought process involved.

Many of our interns come from marginalized backgrounds so the results prove that matching aptitude with opportunity can overcome circumstances and that it is possible to leapfrog talent into the digital economy.”

About the EDSA Program

The EDSA program began in September 2017, with BCX as the founding sponsor who had invested about R50 million as the tuition of 100 interns over a year for the next three years.

During the application stage of the program, the applicants enlisted were between the ages of 17 and 35. There were only 100 slots to fill, and the applicants did their applications online where they had to demonstrate their analytical and problem-solving skills.

During the application window, EDSA received over 10,000 submissions online from all over South Africa. These were young people all eager to learn about data science.

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