The inaugural data science and artificial intelligence (DS&AI) conference 2023 came to a close on 3rd February 2023. The 3 day event attracted 275 unique participants representing 51+ different professionals from over 87 organizations across the world. A total of 26 presentations provided great content for a very lively academic discourse in 7 presentation sessions.
Key highlights of the event featured the opening ceremony graced by the University Vice Chancellor, Prof Henry Kiplangat. In his remarks he informed conference participants of the great strides that the University was making in the area of DS&AI such as the development of undergraduate and masters curriculum, hosting bootcamps and hackathons in the area, supporting student and staff participation in international DS&AI events and the upcoming establishment of the DS&AI center at the University.
The conference plenary provided an opportunity for participants to engage on the issue of engaging African communities in the AI development process in a manner that identifies and addresses pertinent ethical, data protection and intellectual property (IP) issues. The Keynote speaker Prof Ciira Maina, from the Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology, challenged participants to focus first on generating IP before engaging in discussions on how to protect it. Dr Dina Machuve, CTO Dev Data Analytics in Tanzania, expounded on the central role played by data in DS&AI as well as the measures to protect it. Dr John Oredo, Senior Lecturer in Information Sciences, introduced participants to the concept of ‘Ubuntu Ethics’ as an alternative way to view AI ethics on the African Continent.
The graduate student colloquium attracted a total of 6 masters and 1 PhD student at various stages of their research. The event provided an opportunity for them to share their progress and to get input on methodology and data sources from conference participants who included senior scholars and researchers as well as industry DS&AI practitioners.
The paper presentations, according to participants, were great learning sessions with authors taking time to present ground breaking and original research and project results. Ensuing discussions focused on issues of research motivation, methodology, data sources and applicability of the findings presented. Key emphasis was made to all researchers to aim at collecting primary data from the contexts of the problems they sought to solve as opposed to using curated data sets from online data repositories.
Overall the inaugural event was very well received by the academic and research community with participants requesting for greater inclusion of industry in the presentations and plenaries. At the end of the event the conference chair, Dr Moses M Thiga, a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology at Kabarak University, announced the dates for the 2nd event, 7th - 9th February 2024.