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SA academy offers 400 data science internships

The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced 400 free internships for its 12-month Accredited Skills Data Science Programme in 2019.

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The announcement coincides with the opening today of registrations for next year’s intake. The Cape Town-based academy will also open a campus in Gauteng next year to accommodate its expanding student base.

Commenting on the announcement, EDSA co-founder Shaun Dippnall said: “We opened the Academy in January this year with 100 interns. Growing local demand for data scientists, however, has propelled us to quadruple the number of internships offered in 2019.” 

“These internships are sponsored by South African corporates drawn largely from the ICT, banking, insurance and retail sectors, which are leading the application of data science in their businesses to leverage competitive advantage,” Dippnall added.

BCX is a founding partner of EDSA, having injected R50-million into the training of 300 interns over three years. The investment has largely been fuelled by the growing demand for big data analytics and BCX’s recognition of the need for this skillset within the country.

“Data analytics is a field with the potential to grow the South African economy to new heights.  At BCX, we believe data science will allow businesses to make intelligent, data-driven decisions and propel South Africa to become a technology leader as we enter the 4th industrial revolution,” said Portia Maurice, BCX’s Chief Social Impact Officer.

“We are proud to be a founding partner of the EDSA, and believe that our focused strategy on developing disruptive future digital skills has the capacity to change the lives of many young South Africans.”

“In fact, we expect our efforts in the market to contribute to the overall growth of the ICT sector, which is estimated to be at a market size of R155-billion by 2020,” she added.

Gauteng Campus

Commenting on the decision to expand the EDSA’s current base at the Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock, Cape Town to Gauteng in 2019, Dippnall said:

“Corporate demand for data science talent has been immense and given that most of our sponsors for our 2019 student intake are Johannesburg based, it makes sense to provide a campus in Gauteng, facilitating the flow of candidates into their businesses.”

“Also, more than half of our current students are not from Cape Town and chose to relocate to be here for the programme.”

BCX again has taken the lead by being the first to sponsor the inaugural intake of students for the Gauteng campus, which will open its doors in January 2019.

Student Progress

Dippnall is overjoyed by the progress made by the current intake of interns and the proven success of the Academy’s online application process.

No restrictions to entry, nor are formal qualifications required for the one-year Accredited Skills Data Science Programme.  Applicants should be between 17 and 35 years of age and must pass a series of challenging aptitude tests, an on-line data science boot camp, a case study and an interview

“We have had a 98 percent retention rate, which is extremely high, given the complex and highly technical nature of the course.

Of the 100 interns selected from the over 10 000 who applied for the 2018 intake, 32 were matriculants, with no previous training.

“What’s more students have already demonstrated their ability to begin solving real world problems – including an analysis of the water shortages in Cape Town, after just a few months of exposure to data science techniques and tools,” he said. 

A team from EDSA was placed third in a recent City of Cape Town-sponsored Hackathon.

Mirroring the workplace

The EDSA Accredited Skills Data Science programme is an agile, digital, peer-to-peer, modern education course that is Seta-accredited and teaches students new economy skills that are not offered on current platforms. In addition, AWS is Explore’s exclusive machine learning platform provider.

“Our course closely mirrors the demands of the workplace. Included in the curriculum are tools such as Python, PowerBI, SQL and Scikit-learn, which are routinely required when building data science applications. We have also added job immersion and self-paced project work, which both involve team dynamics and interaction,” Dippnall said.

While job placement at the end of the year is not guaranteed, Dippnall is confident that uptake of candidates will be strong given the shortage of skills. Stipends are available to cover the living expenses of successful candidates who are in financial need.

“We are particularly excited to be the first institution to offer a focused, comprehensive and free year-long accredited skills data science programme in the country that builds the relevant digital skills within our youth, so that they can thrive in the new economy,” Dippnall concluded.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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