Gaining momentum with Machine Intelligence and Data Science in Africa
With so much excitement, hype, news and breakthroughs happening around the world with respect to Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Science, it is not surprising to see significant interest in how these technologies – within the framework of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) – can also be utilized here in Africa to help address priorities and solve problems on the continent. As discussed in a recent World Economic Forum article, ICT is set to transform society here in Africa to deliver growth and prosperity based on greater inclusion, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. ICT will become social infrastructure that will not only connect people in a seamless and intuitive way, but also communities, systems, processes and intelligence. Apart from social inclusion, it could also expand access to knowledge, financial services and healthcare, create new business opportunities, and provide more consumer choice. Despite some major problems that need to be resolved, Africa is indeed poised for unprecedented, long-term economic growth driven by potent forces such as cities, stability, trade, people, education, smartphones, and farmland.
Along with other organizations and companies that are making a difference here in Africa, the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa (MIIA) has been established to build a strong and innovative community and accelerator for Machine Intelligence and Data Science research and applications to help transform Africa. Since my previous post (with some more background), MIIA has been on a significant growth curve with already 100+ members on the website, Google+, Meetup, and Facebook(excluding followers on LinkedIn and Twitter) that are starting to engage on multiple levels, in particular via our Slack sponsored real-time messaging environment for community chat and interaction and local Meetups (there is an upcoming Meetup in Cape Town on June 9, 2016). The website has also been updated with information resources on Africa as well as Machine Intelligence and Data Science.
As application, research and technology related projects are a core focus for MIIA (the current projects dashboard shows a range of initial projects in all three categories), the MIIA community is encouraged to propose as many project ideas as possible and start engaging on them (with a process defined for projects submission, execution, and delivery).
One of the MIIA members has for example won first prize at the LaunchLab startup competition last week for their spatial machine learning project NumberBoost (where they basically geocoded a business’ customer database, plot those customers on a map, and do feature extraction from spatial datasets and then have an interactive dashboard to filter spatial correlations, use the features for better churn prediction, recommendation engines, etc.).
The following diagram illustrates the impact areas that the MIIA team envisages for projects with respect to addressing specific African problems and opportunities within certain industries, the high-level expected benefits, and the various types of partners that can help MIIA achieve this.
Projects addressing African problems & opportunities and expected benefits
In order to build an innovative community for Machine Intelligence and Data Science research and real-world applications in Africa, it is important for the MIIA community to partner with academic, research, and nonprofit organizations as well as business, startup incubators, and government organizations on MIIA projects, events and activities. MIIA is also registered with SANGONeT and TechSoup Global. The SANGOTeCH online technology donation and discount portal is a partnership between SANGONeT and TechSoup Global, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that assists nonprofits globally to access technology to deepen the impact of their work. TechSoup Global’s mission is working toward a time when every nonprofit and NGO on the planet has the technology resources and knowledge they need to operate at their full potential. There are various types of sponsoring available to support MIIA’s mission and help grow the community and its activities: Donations, Grants, Project-specific funding, and Technology/tools/platforms related donations.
We are gaining momentum with Machine Intelligence and Data Science in Africa. MIIA is looking forward to making a contribution with its partners to help unlock the tremendous potential that we have in Africa and its people for a better and more prosperous future for everyone. MIIA is on a mission:
- To build a strong and innovative Machine Intelligence and Data Science community in Africa to help transform Africa by networking together the critical mass of resources, promote and sponsor learning activities, and strengthen scientific and technological excellence, mentoring and collaboration on the continent.
- To accelerate and deliver breakthrough Machine Intelligence and Data Science research and practical applications to solve African problems, support entrepreneurial activity, and help drive long-term inclusive and sustainable scientific, technological and socio-economic development on the continent.
- To partner with governments, business, startup incubators, non profit organizations, universities, and research organizations from around the world to support and help mould the future of Machine Intelligence and Data Science research and applications in Africa.
If any one of the following statements are relevant for you, then you are highly encouraged to join MIIA:
- you would like to participate or at least monitor MIIA’s progress with establishing an innovative community to help transform Africa and solve some of its problems via Machine Intelligence technologies
- you are keen to see Africa reach its potential and overcome obstacles by driving long-term inclusive and sustainable scientific, technological and socio-economic development on the continent
- you have an interest in Machine Intelligence technologies (e.g., AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, Data Mining, etc.) and/or its applications
- you have industry and/or enterprise domain expertise, application ideas or needs, or some identified African problems that you would like to see addressed
- you would like to research and/or test the commercial viability of specific applications using Machine Intelligence technologies from an entrepreneurial or business perspective
- you would like to promote MIIA and/or help to get funding to grow MIIA and its activities (given that MIIA is a nonprofit organization)
See How to participate for more details on various ways to help MIIA execute its mission.
- Become an active member of the MIIA community
- Become a Community Activity Leader
- Promote MIIA and follow us on social channels and collaboration platforms
- Become a sponsor and/or help to get funding to grow MIIA and its activities
Links to MIIA and its social channels & collaboration platforms: