Blog by Samhir Vasdev: “As a new generation of data scientists emerges in Africa, they will encounter relatively little trusted, accurate, and accessible data upon which to apply their skills. It’s time to acknowledge the limitations of the data sources upon which data science relies, particularly in lower-income countries.
The potential of data science to support, measure, and amplify sustainable development is undeniable. As public, private, and civic institutions around the world recognize the role that data science can play in advancing their growth, an increasingly robust array of efforts has emerged to foster data science in lower-income countries.
This phenomenon is particularly salient in Sub-Saharan Africa. There, foundations are investing millions into building data literacy and data science skills across the continent. Multilaterals and national governments are pioneering new investments into data science, artificial intelligence, and smart cities. Private and public donors are building data science centers to build cohorts of local, indigenous data science talent. Local universities are launching graduate-level data science courses.
Despite this progress, among the hype surrounding data science rests an unpopular and inconvenient truth: As a new generation of data scientists emerges in Africa, they will encounter relatively little trusted, accurate, and accessible data that they can use for data science.
We hear promises of how data science can help teachers tailor curricula according to students’ performances, but many school systems don’t collect or track that performance data with enough accuracy and timeliness to perform those data science–enabled tweaks. We believe that data science can help us catch disease outbreaks early, but health care facilities often lack the specific data, like patient origin or digitized information, that is needed to discern those insights.
These fundamental data gaps invite the question: Precisely what data would we perform data science on to achieve sustainable development?…(More)”.