With a commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and collaborative partnerships, the University of Rwanda (UR) is poised to leverage data science for the betterment of its community and beyond.
According to the Acting Principal of the university’s College of Business and Economics, Joseph Nkurunziza, they have made significant strides in data science by implementing data science programmes, equipping data science facilities, and assembling a diverse team of both Rwandan and international experts.
During his presentation at Data Science Africa (DSA) conference on May 11, the principal emphasised that their collaborative approach extends beyond borders, with partnerships formed among African and overseas researchers to address pressing societal challenges.
Nkurunziza announced that the university has already published nearly 70 research papers in scientific journals, showcasing its dedication to producing impactful knowledge. Furthermore, they have established a data-driven hub, which serves as a research centre aimed at tackling issues that people are facing and providing practical solutions.
Highlighting an ongoing project, Nkurunziza shared details about a current study focused on road security and data analysis from street cameras, explaining that they seek to empower road traffic authorities with informed decision-making tools by leveraging this specific data.
“The research has reached a significant milestone, currently standing at 60 per cent completion,” he said, expressing confidence in finalising it by September.
Tackling how they are coping with artificial intelligence (AI), Nkurunziza stated that it would not lead to job losses but rather enhance service delivery by addressing certain challenges faced by people.
He emphasised that humans are the driving force behind AI, adding that the primary focus of the university is on empowering students to effectively utilise AI resources in their work.
Charles Ruranga, the Director of the African Centre of Excellence in Data Science (ACEDS), which offers Master’s and PhD programmes in data science, along with short courses, expressed that hosting the DSA conference has provided new inspiration and a valuable platform for exchanging skills and best practices among participants from different countries.
In the last two days of the conference (May 11 and 12), participants presented their research on data science and artificial intelligence, which was shared through workshops among the attendees.
With the expansion of DSA to various countries, Ruranga expressed interest in collaborating with the organisation to establish the Rwandan chapter of DSA. He said the chapter would facilitate the coordination of activities on a national level.
Ruranga mentioned that the centre’s programmes are internationally accredited and constantly updated based on the student’s learning needs and advancements in technology.
Additionally, he said the centre possesses advanced computing capabilities for analysing big data and UR continually strives to upgrade its equipment to serve the region effectively in the field of data science.
The future of DSA
During his presentation, Prof Ciira Maina, the Board Chair of DSA, highlighted that the initial version of the organisation prioritised a student-focused, comprehensive approach to data science education. It also involved a hands-on instructional method, student visitations, and mentorship opportunities, peer learning, and served as a source of inspiration.
He introduced DSA 2.0, which embraces core values such as inclusivity, pragmatism, sustainability, community, and agility.
Moving forward, DSA aims to enhance its impact by expanding its geographical and linguistic reach.
This includes providing targeted training opportunities, establishing new local chapters, extending the affiliate centre programme, and expanding the research award programme, among other initiatives.