Machine learning is the new frontier of the technology industry. Artificial intelligence has already been implemented by some countries to operate self-driving cars and home robots. The new technological developments are both challenging and innovative. The main reason behind artificial intelligence is to facilitate life with simpler methods of dealing with complex solutions. Easy long-lasting solutions that embrace yet again, the future. It is dynamic and constantly breeds the need to stay updated.
Tech companies are trying to efficiently deliver machine learning skills through their product and service delivery to make for a unique customer experience. In Kenya, women are rising up to the challenge to converge and build communities around data science and machine learning. They are doing this to share resources, get knowledge on current trends in the tech-specific field and tailoring their experiences to the local environment.
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The Women in Machine Learning and Data Science community seeks to increase the representation of women data scientists into the tech industry. The majority members of this community are determined self-taught women with a love for data and technology. They keep up with their passion continuously. As there has previously been no open space to discuss machine learning and data science for women, two years ago a group came together taking advantage of the situation.
Africa’s Talking Kathleen Siminyu broke into the data science playing field after acknowledging the role women need to play in data science. As a Jomo Kenyatta University graduate in mathematics and computer science, she felt the need to increase the conversation around female data scientists and started doing so through community engagement. This has since helped the women involved build their confidence and showcase their capabilities.
Kathleen revealed that men were more likely to come back and learn from the sessions when challenged, however, women are more likely to try and catch up on their own when they encountered content they did not know. In some cases, they would not come back at all. She hopes that since their sessions are centered around beginners, that their efforts to bring more women to the center would change positively with more women growing confident in their skills and passion to learn more.
As of now, the gender representation in the local community lies at 50/50 which is commendable. However, the higher the ranks the fewer women you find and the gender parity gap keeps widening. This reflects the Africa data science community. The technology ecosystem still has much to be desired, but much is also being done to curb these gaps and encourage women and girls to major in STEM education and career track roles.
However, because it is a largely unknown venture in Africa the way to succeed is through a commitment to continuously learn and grow. Thereafter, it is to enrich more interested parties with the same knowledge to improve the machine learning and data science space. An added advantage is the robust resources available online to teach yourself the coding skills you need. However, for a booster, a background in data science and computer science or additional mathematics skill set would facilitate the learning process.
Such communities like the women in machine learning and data science serve as a spec for other women on the continent to participate at a grassroots level for the advancement of the continent as a whole. They can do this by building networks where people connect and share their resources, collaborate on ideas, discuss future progressions and current trends. These communities have the capacity to solve African problems at a local level and execute it beautifully given their strong cultural background which serves as an advantage.
Kathleen says she would like to see some of the continent’s pertinent problems addressed through literacy and learning, access to energy and possibly redefining of our government structures. Google has recently opened up an AI Lab in Ghana and a machine intelligence masters in Rwanda. Showcasing both the promise and talent Africa has and the belief of the world in the potential of this limitless continent.