In March 2022, in celebration of International Women’s day, we are organising an Africa focused event and hackathon related to Women in Data Science in Africa. The partners in this event are DARA Big Data, IDIA, SARAO and the OAD..

The Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) Big Data project was established in 2017 under the UK-South Africa Newton Fund, with the aim of building human capital in data intensive research areas of strategic importance to South Africa and the eight Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Africa partner countries. Data intensive focus areas of DARA Big Data have included topics in astrophysics / astronomy, health sciences and sustainable agriculture, as well as data science to inform policy. 

Training and research development initiatives under DARA Big Data have included skills development opportunities through an annual Big Data Africa School, hackathons hosted at partnering African universities, an intermediate skills-level Data Science Intensive programme, together with postgraduate scholarship opportunities for students from the SKA Africa partner countries to undertake a Masters or Doctoral degree on a thematic data science topic at a UK institution. Since its inception in 2017, DARA Big Data has provided training to almost 300 science and engineering students, and awarded 17 scholarships for postgraduate studies.

Women in Data Science Event

In March 2021, the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) released a Women in Data Science report that used the DARA Big Data project as a case study to assess the participation of young African women in data science initiatives, identify factors hampering their participation in skills training and research development initiatives, and explore recommendations that may increase women’s participation in future initiatives based on findings from the study. A key finding echoed throughout the study was the lack of African female role models who are actively working in frontier areas of data science and associated technologies, who can play a significant and active role in inspiring a younger cohort of aspiring female data scientists, data engineers and technologists. The study identified a Women in Data Science event which showcases and profiles Africa’s female talent in emerging technology areas within data science as an excellent initiative to inspire and engage a younger generation of female students from across the continent who may have similar ambitions. 

DARA Big Data will host its first African-focused Women in Data Science event from 8 – 10 March 2022. The event will consist of a one-day plenary session coinciding with International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March 2022, which additionally marks one year since the release of the SARAO Women in Data Science report. This event will be open to women with a strong interest in data science from across the African continent. The one-day plenary will then be followed by a hackathon event for female participants from the SKA Africa partner countries, which will take place on the 9 and 10 March 2022. 

The plenary event will be followed by a two-day hackathon (9 and 10 March 2022) for students and young professionals from the 8 SKA Africa partner countries (includes Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia). The hackathon is a skills development initiative with the aim of introducing data science / machine learning techniques to postgraduate science and engineering students, through focused tutorials and an applied project. 

The project for the event will involve conducting sentiment analysis using Twitter, focussing on a topic that is highly relevant to women. Through the hackathon, students will be tasked with getting some understanding on the given topic and exploring opinions and reactions to it, both in Africa and internationally.    

DARA Big Data is funded by: