Data Science and AI, vital for growing IT industry, says SLASSCOM chief | Sunday Observer

Data Science and AI, vital for growing IT industry, says SLASSCOM chief

Jeevan Gnanam
Jeevan Gnanam

The stage is set to make Data Science the third pillar within Sri Lanka’s ICT exports with the launch of the Training Program in Fundamentals of Data Science offered by the Centre for Data Science, Department of Statistics, University of Colombo.

The course fee of this program is subsidised through the National Export Strategy (NES) initiatives through the Export Development Board (EDB) and Sri Lanka Association for Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM).

Chairman, SLASSCOM, Jeevan Gnanam identified the importance of “growing our capacity and ability in the areas of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as key for growing the industry and for our skills to remain competitive.”

At present, Sri Lanka’s IT exports are estimated to be over USD 1.2 billion and is the fifth-largest export earner offering Software/Product Development and Business Process Management (BPM) services.

The industry is growing rapidly with the potential to reach USD 5 billion by 2022 with a workforce of 200,000 employees.

Due to multiple technological advancements, the ability to capture data generated by various processes has become more viable and inexpensive. With the availability of data, computation power and evolving data analytics, organisations are rapidly moving towards data driven decision making.

This trend has created new career opportunities for Data Scientists, for those with skills in statistical data analytics, big data analytics, computer programming and a passion to extract information from data.

The ICT sector in Sri Lanka which had previously focused more on software development and BPM can now explore new ventures by combining programming and database management experience with data analysis to emerge as data analytics companies.

Data Scientists are very much in demand around the globe and has increasing career prospects in Sri Lanka as well. This has been highlighted in multiple studies including the LinkedIn 2017 Emerging Jobs Report, where Machine Learning Engineers and Data Scientists top the list.

However, there is a considerable shortage of Data Scientists in Sri Lanka which has hindered the expansion of data analytics industry.

This is mainly due to the lack of combined knowledge in Statistics, Computer Science, Mathematics and the knowledge of the industry domain.

Having identified this need, the Department of Statistics of University of Colombo, through the newly formed Centre for Data Science collaborated with the SLASSCOM to structure and promote this course on the Fundamentals in Data Science, to provide a strong foundation for those venturing into careers in Data Science.

This program is targeted towards professionals who already have skills in computer science such as programming and database management, those who have industry domain knowledge seeking to familiarise with data analytics or STEM graduates seeking a career as Data Scientists.

The program is structured as five short courses and an individual mini-project. The topics addressed include an introduction to Exploratory Data Analysis using R, Data Management, Introduction to Statistical models, Introduction to Machine Learning, Data Visualization and Big Data, followed by the individual mini-project.

The course duration is four months with 15 hours of lectures and lab content for each course and a mini-project. At the successful completion of the short courses, the mini-project would need to be delivered within four weeks. The program will be conducted by a panel of lecturers at the Department of Statistics, University of Colombo and experts from the industry as visiting lecturers. SLASSCOM, which represents the largest IT/BPM companies in Sri Lanka, fully endorses this program and see it being an important program in the national agenda to build the competency of Data Science. SLASSCOM will also explore career opportunities for people completing the program, within its network of over 200 organisations. 

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