Data Science & Salone - Visiting Sierra Leone

Through an NRF Knowledge Interchange and Collaboration grant, I was able to visit some collaborators in Sierra Leone. I got the opportunity to do 3 things. 

Visiting Njala University

I had a visit to Njala University to give 2 days of workshops. The content consisted of:

  • Introduction to Data Science
  • Introduction to Machine Learning
  • Visualisation
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Ethical considerations of Data Science
  • Interactive Ideation of Data Science and Machine Learning Approaches
Njala University Workshop Participants

Njala University has many campuses across Sierra Leone. I got the opportunity to visit the main campus in Njala and take in the beauty of the countryside. Adjusting to the humidity took a bit of time but I did enjoy interacting with faculty, students and policy-makers from the area. I am thankful for all the faculty who hosted me as well as the management (deans, registrar and Vice-Chancellor of Njala University). From Njala I then headed to Freetown.

Njala University Vice-Chancellor Professor Abdullah Mansaray, Myself and hosting faculty member Yahya Labay Kamara

Visiting the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI)

We started a collaboration with the Chief Innovation Officer of the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation Sierra Leone, Dr David Sengeh in 2018. The collaboration has been on using machine learning to better understand factors that affect educational outcomes. The first output of this collaboration was just presented at 6th Intl. Conference on Soft Computing & Machine Intelligence (ISCMI) 2019. Full reference:

Predicting National School Performance for Policy-Making in South Africa. [H Wandera, V Marivate, D Sengeh] ISCMI 2019  [ISBN - 978-1-7281-4576-1]

The visit allowed me to be able to meet the group of Data Scientists who are based at DSTI that I had been communicating with via email and online chat. It got me to better understand the challenges they are working on and how we could go forward with our collaborations. One of the outcomes of this visit was finishing up the administrative process of signing an MOU between EBIT at the University of Pretoria and the Directorate. 

DSTI office in Freetown

During my visit, Dr Sengeh was also announced as the next Education Minister of Sierra Leone, and we got to reflect on his year in public service and his research background. Best wishes for his new post.

Hosting workshop at Fourah Bay College

I hosted a workshop at Fourah Bay College is part of the University of Sierra Leone and is in Freetown. The workshop content: 

  • Introduction to Data Science
  • Introduction to Machine Learning
  • Visualisation
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Ethical considerations of Data Science.
  • Interactive Ideation of Data Science and Machine Learning Approaches

The workshop was attended by faculty, data scientists, entrepreneurs and policy-makers. It was a great experience and further got me to understand some problems local data scientists are thinking of. 

Workshop Participants at Fourah Bay College

Acknowledgements

I am thankful for NRF for allowing this opportunity. I had previously used this opportunity to visit Data Science Africa in Arusha Tanzania. I would like to acknowledge all the staff and drivers who assisted me in Sierra Leone, they made my stay comfortable. I would like to thank the University of Pretoria staff who assisted with logistics as well as our MOU preparations. 

The beaches of Freetown

You can find out more about our research group, Data Science for Social Impact.

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