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South Africa launch ‘Big Data’ summer school for research scientists

Africa has announced that it will establish its first ever 'Big Data' summer school following the official announcement of a partnership between research organization Square Kilometer Array South Africa (SKA SA) and the South African Medical Research Council. (SAMRC)The continent's first 'Big Data' summer school will be launched in Cape Town.

The purpose of the collaboration is to expose and provide students from various academic backgrounds with the opportunities to explore and understand the fundamentals of Big Data research by applying their knowledge to practical areas in astronomy, bioinformatics and health sciences; the transfer of knowledge in the area of data science that builds on a multi-disciplinary approach.

Dr. Richard Gordon, executive director of the SAMRC's grants innovation and product development unit, expressed his belief that the establishment of such an educational facility in 'Big Data' was crucial as the challenge of managing 'Big Data' will become increasingly important. He said, "The challenge of managing big data sets is going to become increasingly important as we move into the age of OMIC and personalized medicine. We consider the big data summer school as equipping African scientists with technologies that will place them at the forefront of research and data management."

The proliferation of data across various sector increases the demand for individuals in South Africa, and globally, who can manipulate, analyze and visualize complex data systems. The faculty aims to contribute to creating critical data science skills in order to find solutions for next data challenges which will face all research disciplines.

Dr. Rob Adam, Managing Director of SKA SA passionately proclaimed that it was his desire to see South Africa become a world leader in 'Big Data' and suggested that the only way to achieve that was to train the country's best young people in this specific area. He said: "South Africa can and should play a leading role in the global big data economy, and can and should be a world-leading center 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."

In order to provide context in relation to the data challenges of the ground-breaking radio telescope - it has been predicted by industry analysts that data collected by the SKA in a single day would take nearly 2 million years to play back on an iPod. The SAMRC will feature its precision medicine program as part of the curriculum. Described as a 'progressive' program - which is specifically designed to build innovative tools and capabilities to create a precision medicine environment.

Professor Glenda Gray, President and CEO of SAMRC outlined the importance and benefits provided by 'precision medicine'. She said: "Precision medicine affords us the skill and ability to analyze data across broad spectrums to enhance our understanding of patient health and well-being. The accuracy associated with this new approach to prognosis will benefit the South African health care system as it has the potential to expedite health care service delivery."