For more than a decade, we’ve partnered with mission-driven organizations around the world to advance data solutions into turnkey tools that are accessible and valuable public goods. We’re delighted to share that we’re strengthening our global work with our first in-person DataDive event in Nairobi, Kenya.
While we’ve worked with many organizations in East Africa, we’re eager to bring together DataKind staff, partners, and volunteer data scientists for a DataDive event in Nairobi on Saturday, June 3, to dive into data and unlock the potential of data science and AI for social impact.
“We’re thrilled to be in person this week to work alongside our partners and the data science community in Nairobi. It’s a natural next step for us to be in this city that has long been the tech and economic hub of East Africa,” says Lauren Woodman, DataKind CEO. “DataKind has been engaged in the region for years in our project work, and thanks to the support of our partners at Microsoft and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, we’re able to focus on scaling our impact in the region, and strengthening our presence in key cities around the world by holding our first series of convenings with local partners and volunteers.”
A Thriving Data Science Community in East Africa
Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is recognized as a leading global tech hub with a significant focus on data science and AI. The data science community in Nairobi and East Africa as a whole has experienced significant growth in the past five years, driven by technological advancements and increasing demand for data science opportunities. As Kenya’s economy flourishes, businesses are recognizing the importance of leveraging data to refine their products and services, making data science and AI a priority.
The community’s work spans a wide range of domains, with a particular focus on healthcare, unemployment, training, planning and resource allocation, gender equity, and increasing opportunities for entrepreneurship. They also face challenges, which DataKind is well positioned to help mitigate.
Critical challenges faced:
While the data science community in East Africa is booming, it also faces several unique challenges when it comes to data collection and accuracy. These challenges include:
- Inconsistency in data collection standards: The lack of standardized practices across data collection efforts hinders comparability and reliability.
- Data complexity: The nature of the data being collected, such as unstructured or incomplete data, poses challenges for analysis and interpretation.
- Inadequate access to quality data: Limited availability of high-quality data restricts the community’s ability to derive meaningful insights.
- Lack of training in data collection: There’s a need for comprehensive training programs to enhance the skills of data collectors and ensure accurate data collection.
- Lack of quality assurance processes: The absence of robust quality assurance processes compromises the reliability and validity of collected data.
- Context of data collection: Understanding the social, cultural, and contextual factors surrounding data collection is crucial for accurate interpretation and analysis.
Noteworthy achievements and opportunities:
Despite these challenges, the data science community in East Africa has achieved significant milestones in recent years. Some notable ones include:
- Training of researchers and practitioners in the field of data science and AI: Efforts have been made to equip individuals with the necessary skills to effectively utilize data for social impact.
- Digitization of government services: The community has played a pivotal role in digitizing government services, making them more accessible to the public through online platforms.
- Improving data collection and quality: Various initiatives have been undertaken to enhance data collection processes, ensuring higher accuracy and reliability of collected data.
How We’re Scaling Our Impact
DataKind’s priorities align well with the data science community in East Africa, and we’re excited to tap into this network for great insights into the region, building more connections and applying learnings toward replication.
At a high-level convening of African leaders in Nairobi, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, the Governments of Kenya and Sierra Leone, and Safaricom hosted Data for Development in Africa. During this meeting, bold commitments were made to use data and technology to improve lives and livelihoods. Also, several African Data Science Hubs were announced “to shore progress, increase technical capacity and coordination across the continent, and to enable insights from data science to be used by countries to provide information to the government for achieving and monitoring the SDGs.”
The data science community in East Africa includes practitioners, enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, developers, and learners who are passionate about data science and AI. Their collective efforts are focused on creating and sharing opportunities, building African technology and research, providing training and mentorship, fostering innovation, and raising awareness about the importance of technology.
DataKind’s Inaugural DataDive Event in Nairobi
To further support and collaborate with the East African data science community, we’re hosting our first-ever in-person DataDive event in Nairobi on Saturday, June 3, from 9:30am-4:30pm with a meet and greet event on Friday, June 2. The DataDive event will focus on generating solutions for both local and international social sector partners.
DataKind’s staff and Nairobi-based volunteers will work on two projects at the DataDive event. The first project is a continuation of our work with Save the Children and the second is a new project with partner Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN).
GOYN is a multi-stakeholder initiative committed to creating place-based system shifts for youth economic opportunity. Working with Anchor Partners situated in communities around the world, GOYN works to create economic mobility for “Opportunity Youth” — young people aged 15-29 who are out of school, unemployed, or working in informal jobs. Opportunity Youth need access to resources, and there isn’t a central information source where they can get everything they need. In partnership with GOYN-Mombasa, we created a tool that makes this information accessible, and now we’re expanding to Nairobi, eThekwini, and Mexico City. During this DataDive event, volunteers will identify, clean, and use data to explore community insights to prototype these tools for new localities.
Members of the DataKind team were on the ground in Mombasa in late May, hosting a Data Science Workshop, trained the local GOYN members on a set of data science topics like generative AI, machine learning, and statistics for data science. See photos below.
Matthew Harris (DataKind’s Head of Data Science), Shanna Lee (DataKind’s Director, Community Engagement), and John Harnisher (DataKind’s Head of Research) with members of Swahilipot Hub. Photo courtesy of Swahilipot Hub.
Data science workshop in Mombasa. Photo courtesy of DataKind.
Thanks to the generous support of Microsoft and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for making the DataDive event possible. It presents a valuable opportunity to foster partnerships, share knowledge, and advance the use of data science and AI for social impact. Shout out to our local partner, African Digital Media Institute, for their support as well!
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