Data science graduates hold key to SA’s future

Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

by MTHULISI SIBANDA 
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – DATA science will be key to effective governance, service delivery and improving the lives of South Africa’s people.

This is according to the government and Huawei following the graduation ceremony of 180 students after completing a data science skills programme by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Technology and the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA).

The training course was aimed at young people from poor and rural backgrounds, and forms part of a broader skills programme to equip South African youth for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the future digital era.

“Data science techniques can harness the power of data to build predictive models to help governments reduce costs, eliminate risk and optimise limited resources,” Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, said at the online event.

The data science skills programme emanates from a commitment made in the minister’s 2019 budget speech to train 1 000 South African youth in 4IR-related skills.

Besides the data-science course, the department’s partnership with the MICT SETA also provides courses on 3D printing, cybersecurity, drone piloting and digital content production.

Spawn Fan, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei South Africa, said that ICT skills such as data science would be indispensable in the new business era in narrowing the digital divide.

“We have seen the power of ICT to reduce inequality,” Fan said.

Fan said the key to enhancing young people’s economic power was improving their connectivity and their digital skills.

“It is incumbent on all stakeholders in the digital economy to build initiatives to narrow this digital divide,” the Huawei executive said.

Data science involves extracting knowledge and information from large amounts of raw data using various scientific methods.

It incorporates skills from computer science, artificial intelligence, mathematics, statistics, information graphics and business communications.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said partnerships such as these between government and Huawei were making strides in developing South Africa into an ICT-knowledge-based society.

“Captains of industry and members of the president’s commission on the 4IR have recommended building human capacity in the field of 4IR, including data science,” she said.

Huawei South Africa is a partner of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

Joint initiatives include the Seeds for The Future programme, where 50 students had recently graduated.

Huawei also launched a programme with the DCDT in 2019, targeting 6 000 students for 4IR training.

A four-day Huawei programme providing training in 5G technologies had attracted more than 400 students from 26 universities.

Fan said the way to avoid the 4IR entrenching the digital divide was through conscious investment in upskilling youth for the new era.

“Skilled professionals are crucial for the growth and development of our country, and you represent hope for the future,” Fan concluded.

– CAJ News

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