Recently, there have been many recent and planned reforms to secondary education. Today, Egypt introduces a significant announcement on the higher educational front. For the first time in history, Egypt now has an undergraduate major in data science! Some of you might be wondering, “Why should such a fact interest us?” And you would be entitled to such an opinion. However, when we explain how this milestone came to be, and what data science exactly is, you will realise the importance of the situation.
So what is data science? Well, the official Wikipedia definition is “Data science is a multi-disciplinary field that uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms, and systems to extract knowledge and insights from structured and unstructured data.” At this point, you might be somewhat confused just as we were when we first read this simple, yet complicated explanation.
Let’s take Netflix as an example to visualise things a bit more clearly. How does Netflix understand what drives user interest, so it can decide which original series it should produce? The answer is the movie viewing patterns, and that’s where the data scientist steps in. He discovers patterns in large data sets, or “mines” the data, to uncover findings that will be useful. A similar example to Netflix is Proctor & Gamble. It studies time series models to understand future demand more clearly, which help plan for production levels more optimally. Hopefully, this will have shed a bit more light on the matter.
Despite the evident significance of this field, our country currently has no programmes to produce data scientists, according to Enterprise’s conversation with Dr Ali Hadi, who is the main reason behind the purpose of this article. Hadi is the founder of Egypt’s first undergraduate major in data science that will launch this autumn at the AUC. Coincidentally, he also founded the Actuarial Science programme back in 2004, which is one of the top programmes at AUC now, in terms of quality of students.
In an excerpt of his interview, the professor stated that the programme was launched this year because data scientists are in high demand and scarce supply. He added that even abroad, there are very few data science programmes, and the majority of them are graduate programmes. The plan is that the programme starts with 15 students in the first year and 25 the year after that, to test the market and make sure the graduates can find jobs. Furthermore, they have to secure some faculty vacancies, as well as keep limited class sizes to ensure the quality of education.
At the end of the day, Hadi says that they will plan for the worst and hope for the best.