BCX drives 21st century's sexiest job

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The Explore Data Science Academy at the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town.
The Explore Data Science Academy at the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town.

BCX is looking to boost data science skills in SA.

Yesterday, ITWeb attended an event at Cape Town's Bandwidth Barn where the company welcomed 100 students at the Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA).

SA is facing a shortage of data scientists, which the Harvard Business School dubbed the "21st century's sexiest job".

For example, there are not enough data scientists in SA to handle the vast amount of data that will need to be interpreted when the Square Kilometre Array telescope is live.

Market analyst firm Gartner says the need for data scientists is growing at about three times those for statisticians and business intelligence analysts.

Last year, BCX invested over R50 million in the EDSA, sponsoring 300 students over three years to complete the free year-long course and internship, focusing on the immense potential data science and analytics has for the future of tech.

The 2018 class of students at the academy is made up of 86% black students, 42% female students, 54% students under 25, and 42% of students with certifications no higher than matric.

The students are already using data science to tackle real-life challenges like the Western Cape's water problems and they are set to present their findings to the city.

"We're extremely proud of the student profile of the Explore Data Science Academy," says Ian Russell, BCX CEO.

"BCX is committed to the digital transformation of South Africa, and data science skills are essential to propelling this nation forward. I am excited for these gifted data scientists to become ambassadors of the BCX vision and enhance our operations with their unique problem-solving skills."

There is an estimated global shortfall of two million data scientists, says BCX. Likewise, there is huge demand for these skills within corporate SA, which far outweighs current supply.

It adds that the EDSA's goal is to address this shortfall while empowering South Africans to succeed in this field.

Shaun Dippnall, co-founder of the EDSA, said: "When we launched this programme last year, we could only dream of the response from South Africans. We had over 8 000 applicants for 100 open slots.

"Students were chosen for the course based solely on their aptitude in an online assessment that measured the applicants' ability to think critically. The diversity of this class shows that diverse backgrounds lead to more creative thinking and problem-solving."

Once the students complete the year-long course, they can join Telkom Group subsidiaries such as BCX, or be ceded to partners as interns. The EDSA will open its application pool for candidates for its 2019 class in September.

The EDSA students ITWeb spoke to showed enthusiasm for the programme. "I think data science is not only a vital skill for the 21 century, but one that makes the most sense for staying relevant in business, government and education," said Simon Shilo.

"Real-life problems is what drives data science," said Zaheeda Tshankie. "Data science encapsulates at a higher technical level which is effective on the ground in the real world. I find this critical in problem-solving and very interesting for me personally."

"This programme is very informative as we are learning data science tools that are used to solve real life problems," said Tiro Nathane. "We are living in a technological era and with data, we can get meaningful information that can offer insights on how to solve challenges."

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