VizAfrica 2019 Symposium
Mon 18th & Tues 19th November, 2019
The University of Botswana recently organised and hosted the 2019 VizAfrica Data Visualisation Symposium in Gaborone, under the theme of ‘Application of Data, Information and Scientific Visualization for Resource Management and Sustainability’. The internationally attended Symposium was held over 2 days and covered data application in climate change, policy design and health, amongst other areas. It was preceded by a 5 day summer school which introduced data analysis techniques to Botswanan students.
DARA Big Data sponsored 3 staff members from the Centre for High Performance Computing in South Africa (Dr Daniel Moeketsi, Dr Krishna Govender and Sakhile Masoka) to teach at the summer school and attend the symposium itself, supported by 2 South African students (Isabella Rammala and Sydil Kupa). Isabella and Sydil are Radio Astronomy students at Rhodes University in Cape Town who also work closely with SARAO. They led an ‘astro-hack’ session at the summer school, which gave them valuable experience of leading a data science workshop. The hack was titled ‘Find All The Dead Stars’ and required students to locate pulsars (rotating neutron stars) using large datasets. Sydil said, ‘It was such a great experience for me. This year I made a deliberate decision to give talks to students on the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). The opportunity for me to impart my knowledge of Machine Learning in Astronomy to university students has been nothing short of wonderful. More especially the feedback that the students gave me is valuable, on how the knowledge they gained from the tutorial is beneficial to their research, even though their research is not in Astronomy.’
From left to right; Dr Tshiamo Motshegwa (University of Botswana), Sybil Kupa (Rhodes University), Dr Krishna Govender (CHPC), Dr Daniel Moeketsi (CHPC) and Isabella Rammala (Rhodes University) at the Summer School.
In addition DARA Big Data sponsored students from 4 of the AVN (African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network) countries to attend the symposium, to support their development in data science and help them to meet key people and form strong networks. Our 4 students were Rubby Aworka from Ghana, Matti Shambalula from Namibia, Chileshe Mutale from Zambia and Mercy Mwikali from Kenya, all of whom have been involved previously with DARA Big Data workshops or DARA Astronomy training.
Matti said, ‘I have certainly gained a better understanding and knowledge on Data Virtualization and its concept through various presentation and panel discussions. There is no doubt that the knowledge acquired will be very helpful in my future endeavours when pursuing my MSc and PhD programs. Further, it was a wonderful opportunity for networking and exchanging contacts with various scientists at different levels that may inspire and mentor me in the future. I am delighted to have met some very young and bright minds, we really had a great time and had many meaningful conversations.’ His fellow attendee Rubby said, ‘I got to learn more about data visualization in the aspects of predicting floods, and how we could apply the skills and knowledge acquired in one sector (astronomy) into another sector (agriculture).’ Mercy commented, 'It was of great benefit to me. I learned that Data Visualisation is key in simplifying things into concepts that can be easily grasped in graphical format, enabling easy understanding.'
From left to right; Chileshe Mutale, Rubby Aworka, Mercy Mwikali and Matti Shamabalula at the Symposium
Dr Tshiamo Motshegwa, senior lecturer at the University of Botswana, was heavily involved with the organisation of the conference and the summer school and said that overall it was a great success. The symposium was a key part of the University’s mission of improving economic and social conditions in Botswana, while framing itself as a distinctively African University with an international outlook.