Africa’s first big data summer school has been launched in Cape Town through a partnership between the research organisation, Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA), and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
More than R1 million in funding has been provided by the Newton Fund through the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy.
The initiative aims to equip young African scientists with technologies and skills that will place them at the forefront of research and data management.
“South Africa can and should play a leading role in the global big data economy, and can and should be a world-leading centre for research and machine learning and cognitive computing. At SKA SA we believe that the key to becoming a world leader in big data and cognitive computing is to train our best young people in these areas,” said SKA SA Managing Director, Dr Rob Adam.
The summer school will target undergraduate and master’s degree students who are at an early stage of their research careers. The knowledge and skills acquired is expected to propel their careers as early career researchers.
Students will be exposed to the fundamentals of big data research by applying their knowledge to practical areas in astronomy, bioinformatics and health sciences; and the transfer of knowledge in the area of data science that builds on a multi-disciplinary approach.
“The challenge of managing big data sets is going to become increasingly important as we move into the age of omic and personalised medicine,” said Executive Director of the SAMRC’s Grants Innovation and Product Development unit, Dr Richard Gordon.
To place the data challenges of the ground-breaking radio telescope in context, it is predicted that data collected by the SKA in a single day would take nearly two million years to playback on an iPod.
The SAMRC will feature its precision medicine programme as part of the curriculum. This progressive programme aims to build innovative tools and capabilities to create a precision medicine environment.
“Precision medicine affords us the skill and ability to analyse data across broad spectrums to enhance our understanding of patient health and well-being,” said President and CEO of the SAMRC, Professor Glenda Gray.
“The accuracy associated with this new approach to prognosis will benefit the South African healthcare system as it has the potential to expedite healthcare service delivery,” concluded Professor Gray.