A UK-Africa Data Science Network: Capturing the SKA-Driven Data Transformation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

The programme will build a multi-institute big data research and training platform, between the South African and UK partner universities, that will establish sustainable links via a Data Science Network, led by academics and developed and refined in consultation with the user community. eResearch capacity is an absolute necessity in a world where the appropriate handling of big data, in the natural sciences, medicine, the humanities and the social sciences is of paramount importance. This program will support the development of research capacity in Big Data and Data Science in South Africa through the creation of a joint UK-SA training network which will form the basis of a long term sustainable research collaboration that has the potential to address issues of global concern.

The program is designed to create a UK-SA Data Science Network to advance research and training in big data science. As a core tool to support the network and its programs we will develop and deploy an online portal gateway. Such cyber-infrastructure can be used both as a direct teaching resource, hosting MOOCs and other online material, as well as a research platform for data science and big data, hosting a data portal and collaborative work space. The program does not intend to build physical infrastructure, but will utilise capacity at existing facilities developed for data intensive research in conjunction with the SKA project in Africa.

Planned Impact

The economic impact of training programs such as this is often found primarily in providing a skilled work force for an existing economy in order to grow that sector. The big data analytics economy is still emerging and the cohort of students trained by this program will be expected to contribute significantly to securing South Africa's future market share in this area. Impacts will be found primarily in three areas:

People: By establishing a joint UK-SA eResearch infrastructure for Big Data & Data Science we will improve science and innovation expertise (i.e. capacity building). We will do this using student and researcher fellowships which include mobility schemes and joint training programs.

Research: By building on newly established scientific infrastructure we will develop an innovative research program that utilises techniques drawn from the fundamental scientific research surrounding the SKA project in order to expand the impact of those techniques into other domains. We will establish an innovative cross-disciplinary Data Science Network platform that can accelerate and enable data science innovation across multiple fields, both academic and non-academic, in SSA.

Translation: We will target the expansion of data analysis, visualisation and management techniques necessary for the SKA into other domains. We will achieve this by partnering SKA data science projects with non-SKA data science projects under three common research themes: data visualisation, data analytics, data visualisation and data systems & tools. This innovative approach will enable a parallel development of big data and data science techniques across multiple domains and allow us to use progress in the SKA project to develop innovative solutions on development topics outside the remit of SKA.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description POSTNote consultation - ML for Agri
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0628/
 
Description DARA Big Data: 2019 Extension
Amount £469,504 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/T001399/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Description IAU OAD 
Organisation International Astronomical Union
Country France 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution DARA Big Data OAD fellowships scheme hosted by the IAU OAD in Cape Town to develop hackathon resources
Collaborator Contribution Host for fellowships
Impact Hackathons conducted in Zambia, Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique, plus 2 cross-continent African virtual hackathons, led by OAD Fellow. This collaboration covers astronomy, agriculture and health. Repository of hackathon materials created by Fellow for self-hosted hackathons as a legacy of the project - https://www.astro4dev.org/organise-your-own-hackathon/
Start Year 2019
 
Description SARAO 
Organisation South African Radio Astronomy Observatory
Country South Africa 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution UoM leads the UK side of this Newton Fund project. The project provides training workshops in Southern Africa as well as bursaries for UK graduate study (PhD & MSc(R)) for students from Southern Africa. The project runs the Big Data Africa training program.
Collaborator Contribution SARAO drives the South African side of the project. The project provides training workshops in Southern Africa as well as bursaries for SA graduate study (PhD & MSc(R)) for students from Southern Africa. SARAO has delivered the very successful Data Science Intensive (DSI) programme in both 20/21 and 21/22 under the DARA Big Data banner, which has provided intensive skills training for about 40 students so far. In March 2022 DARA Big Data and SARAO co-hosted a 3 day virtual event which spanned the African continent; Africa Women in Data Science. This was attended by up to 160 people.
Impact This project is multi-disciplinary between astrophysics, health and sustainable agriculture research. Joint media statement on the outcomes of the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) African Partner Countries: "The Ministers noted the importance of the Big Data Africa project for both astronomy as well as more general preparations for the fourth industrial revolution. Given the significance of big data and cyber-infrastructure in economic development at both national and regional level, it was agreed that South Africa and Namibia would explore ways of integrating the Big Data Africa activities in Southern Africa into the SADC Industrialisation Strategy, taking into account prior work within SADC, and liaising with the other members of SADC. Kenya will explore a similar intervention in East Africa, and Ghana in West Africa. It was recommended that this work be presented to the African Union through the intervention of the Ministers."
Start Year 2018
 
Description Africa Women in Data Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a 3 day cross-continent event that was held online and jointly organised between SARAO and DARA Big Data. The first day was a plenary session with African women in the data science field talking about their career paths and experiences; an intensive panel discussion was also held to explore what can be done to promote more African women into the field. Attendance reached around 160 participants. The next 2 days consisted of a hackathon for 28 participants from the SKA partner countries, competing in cross-continental teams and meeting up online to network and develop skills together.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.idia.ac.za/wds-2022/
 
Description Big Data Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Big Data Africa - postgraduate training school in machine learning, data science and analysis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ska.ac.za/students/big-data-africa-summer-school/
 
Description Big Data Africa 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Big Data Africa summer school : https://www.sarao.ac.za/students/young-professionals-development-programme-2/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.darabigdata.com/big-data-africa-2019
 
Description CODATA VizAfrica Gaborone 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact DARA Big Data supported a week long training school for students as part of VizAfrica 2019 in Gaborone, Botswana. This included python tutorials and astronomy coding tutorials.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://vizafrica.codata.org
 
Description DARA Big Data Hackathon - SGAC 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The DARA Big Data SGAC hackathon was organised in collaboration with the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), an organisation of young space professionals and enthusiasts. It was held in November 2020 and was fully remote. The participants were from 12 different African countries and were grouped into international teams with others they didn't know before. Tutoring was all online.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description DARA Big Data Hackathon - Zambia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Two day hackathon event organised at University of Zambia. Hackathons are short, introductory-level data science training for students that usually take place over a period of two to three days. Participation of students in the hackathons gives them an introduction to data science and machine learning skills through a combination of tutorials and hands-on training using practical or real-life data sets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description DARA Big Data Hackathon Windhoek 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Astronomy hackathon at the Namibia University of Science and Technology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://github.com/darabigdata/WindhoekHack
 
Description DARA Big Data hackathon - Big Data Kenya 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 5 day school and hackathon event organised at Technical University Kenya, Nairobi. This event was split into a school with tutorials and lectures and a hackathon. Participation of students in the hackathons allows them to build data science and machine learning skills through a combination of tutorials and hands-on training using practical or real-life data sets. Attendees were guided by 3 local tutors with support and resources from DARA Big Data and listened to talks from national and international industry professionals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.darabigdata.com/big-data-kenya
 
Description DARA Big Data hackathon - Mozambique 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Three day hackathon event organised at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique. Hackathons are short, introductory-level data science training for students that usually take place over a period of two to three days. Participation of students in the hackathons gives them an introduction to data science and machine learning skills through a combination of tutorials and hands-on training using practical or real-life data sets. Attendees were guided by 2 local tutors with support and resources from DARA Big Data and listened to talks from national and international industry professionals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.darabigdata.com/uem-hackathon-mozambique
 
Description Fanaroff Lecture 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact DARA Big Data ran the Fanaroff Lecture 2020, a lecture on science communication for policy engagement aimed at early career scientists
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fanaroff-lecture-2020-tickets-91803078479
 
Description Forum for Astronomy in Africa - student video 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A video consisting of DARA Big Data students talking about the project and its impact was made for the Forum for Astronomy in Africa, held in October 2021. This was a collaborative meeting that brought together astronomers, scientists, students and others to discuss the General Assembly that will take place in Cape Town in 2024. DARA Big Data was asked to contribute a short presentation that was shown during the meeting to explain the context of the project and its aims.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.darabigdata.com/video-africa-forum
 
Description IDW2018 Hackathon 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Two day hackathon event to accompany International Data Week 2018 in Gaborone, Botswana.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://github.com/darabigdata/IDWBotswana
 
Description JEDI Madagascar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 25 students attended a training school on machine learning, data science and data analytics in Madagascar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.idia.ac.za/workshop/jedi-madagascar
 
Description Science for Development Cape Town 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact DARA Big Data sponsored and participated in the science for development workshop at the IAU OAD in Cape Town
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://science4dev.astro4dev.org