The Information Age
The world in which we live is becoming smaller as the emergence of BIG Data not just affects the way in which we see, hear and interact with our planet, but fundamentally influences the way we think. Using our smart mobile phones with sensor platforms or simply scanning bankcards at store checkouts, we generate vast amounts of data on a daily basis. The potential commercial value of collectable and analysed data is vast, it offers an insight into the minds of millions of consumers and innovative and energetic businesses have been quick to capitalise on this new reality. Naturally, there is a demand for open and transparent data sources by governments and civic groups as a means to improve the lives of citizens. Open data sources can also empower people, as they are able to make more informed choices. Data enriched citizens are better equipped to comprehensively participate in public engagement as they are able to identify nuanced issues with the aid of data driven graphical interfaces. In short, data analytics goes beyond knowing things, it creates an opportunity to understand.
Making Sense of it all
As the amount of ‘big’ Data increases there is a knock-on requirement for these facts and figures to be scrutinised, organised and presented in as clear and concise format as possible, this is the job of the Data Scientist. IBM predicts that demand for data scientists will increase 28% by 2020 and there is a great concern that supply of data science professionals is lagging dangerously behind demand. To meet this explosive demand, governments, businesses would be wise to rethink hiring, training, and partnership initiatives. Education and training systems need to adopt a more agile approach in responding to workforce needs that will prepare a future work force for analytics-related roles, while existing workers need to continuously enhance their analytical and technological skills.
The relatively new professions of Data Science (DS) and Data Analytics (DA) are not simply fashionable jargon, but rather disciplines with a set of tools that empower data enriched living. They are hybrid of compounding computing and numerical skills that may be difficult to develop in traditional training programs. To make DS as a carrier option, new generations of students need to be introduced to the discipline from an early age.
Making it Happen
It is an absolute necessity that education catches up with our technologically enhanced society, but for various reasons this is not the case. Therefore, it is essential that young people be introduced to the foundation stones of DS within educational curriculums that are able to facilitate knowledge and the understanding of key data science skills. These are the skills that can be difficult to develop by traditional ‘book study’ learning and more creative ‘hands-on’ approaches should be adopted. By applying a hands-on approach to DS teaching students can be guided to relevant resources and trained to adopt the creative problem solving skills that are the bedrock of data analysis requirements. This approach is particularly helpful to disadvantaged children who may not be able to access relevant materials or experience difficult learning surroundings outside of ‘traditional’ education institutions.
Flexible and Diverse
There is no doubt that in today’s world of big and complex data DS is critical driver for innovation in all sectors and an area of increasing importance within STEM. Data science and analytics students are on course for many of the most exciting and satisfying job opportunities. Despite these opportunities and the growing demand for analytical talent, women are currently underrepresented in STEM-related careers. The ‘tech’ industry is broadly perceived as male dominated and this perception is supported by the data.
There is a compelling evidence that diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth, a situation that should intensify efforts to ensure that executive ranks both embody and embrace the power of differences. Studies undertaken such as Hewlett et al 2013 identify how diversity unlocks innovation by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard which will ultimately drive the capacity for business growth.
The klik-R initiative fosters greater inclusivity and gender diversity with the focus on the younger generation, existing students and those wishing to change the course of their career. We endeavour to cultivate an approach to learning that is inclusive to all underrepresented groups, in particular for young females. With a more level playing field anyone with the drive to learn and will to achieve can realise their potential, this reality is what inspires us most of all.