30 Hours in Nairobi: AfriCHI and Data Science Nairobi

Rounding off the birthday month!!!

I had the privilege to be able to attend the AfriCHI Workshop on  Social Media Usage and its Ethical Implications. My colleague Nyalleng Moorosi and I had contributed a short position paper on the topic earlier in the year and were happy to be invited to give a talk on our work in the space (you can see my research page) and also discuss widely the Ethical issues involved with Social Media (broadly) and also how researchers navigate using data from such a source. I highlighted some challenges arising due to our local laws such as the POPI Act and how, as researchers, we also are responsible to maintaining the privacy of users while trying to extract patterns.

Read the position paper here

I enjoyed the engagements with different people from the African research community. I am not a Human Computer Interaction researcher, but in Machine Learning, Data Science and their applications you tend to deal with a Human being in the loop. As such I appreciate inputs I get from HCI researchers into my own work. Speaking of HCI researchers, one of the conference organisers was Dr. Anicia Peters (Dean, School of Computing and Informatics, Namibia University of Science and Technology). Anicia and I both started our PhDs in the USA at the same time under the Fulbright Science and Technology Scholarship and we both just recently returned to our home countries.

Vukosi and Anicia
Vukosi and Anicia (S&T Fulbrighters in Nairobi)

I also got the chance to speak at the Data Science Nairobi. It was great being invited for the Meetup and also getting some time to chat with some of the young people in the local tech scene and Data Science in particular. I gave a talk at our efforts to build a Data Science team and some of the approaches and projects we have taken on. I named the presentation "Down the Meerkat Hole". The questions posed after my talk were the highlight as they shed light on places where we could find common ground to work together.

I hope to follow up on the conversations had both at the AfriCHI workshop and Data Science Nairobi.

Miscellaneous Notes: It rained a lot during my time in Nairobi, but I got out as much as I could. Loved walking in the city at night, but traffic is something worth looking out for. This was my most "sharing economy" trip. For accommodation I used AirBnB, while to get around in Nairobi used Taxify and Uber. It was very easy to get a Kenyan Sim for my phone and I actually survived in about 200 MB data for the time.

Dat UBER Ride (Nairobi Traffic!!!!)
Dat UBER Ride (Nairobi Traffic

Finally got to see MPESA in action (even though I did not sign up). I got to a point, at one of the busy business streets, where I felt embarrassed asking merchants if they took VISA.  Mobile money in Kenya is no joke. Next time I will definitely sign up for a wallet and make my life easier. You can view some pictures I took during the time here: https://goo.gl/photos/sFp135Zw3jNmq6Wq9

I would like to acknowledge the support of the CSIR HCD office and CSIR MDS for making this visit possible.


  • v0.5: Just published
  • v0.6: Added photo album link

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