Budding data scientists to brainstorm smart city solutions at Urbanlytics 2019

  • 11 data scientists per US$1bil GDP in Malaysia offers fertile grounds for data businesses
  • Collaboration with Asia School of Business to provide business model perspectives

Prof. Willem Smit, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Asia School of Business, Pedro Uria Recio, Head of Axiata Analytics Centre and Prof. Paul Morrissey, Global Ambassador for Big Data Analytics at TM Forum.

In collaboration with Cities 4.0 and Asia School of Business, Axiata Group Bhd announced that over 200 participants will battle it out in Urbanlytics 2019, a datathon for Smart Cities running over the September 21 to 22 weekend. The datathon challenges teams to come up with solutions to real business challenges, in 24 hours. It is expected to be a ‘no-sleep’ event for participants. Anonymised datasets modelled after those available in the real world will be provided at the start.

Outcomes may include visualizations, insights into specific variables and predictions or analyses involving the complex, external datasets. Judges will be looking for models and insights that lead to practical solutions which can impact real-life business.

The head of Axiata Analytics Centre, Pedro Uria Recio, highlighted the main objectives of the datathon of making Malaysia “a data hub and talent hub” and to source for the best talent to join Axiata.

The number of data scientists with machine learning knowledge in Malaysia per US$ 1 billion of gross domestic product (GDP) stands at 11 data scientists, indicating that the country is poised to be a starting ground for data driven businesses. Recio attributed this to the fair number of universities in the country offering data science undergraduate and post graduate courses. For instance, at HELP University in Kuala Lumpur, it is compulsory for all students and faculty to take an analytics course at the university whose mission is to create the A*GEN (Analytics Generation).

Meanwhile, a similar measure in Thailand and Indonesia stands at eight and three data scientists respectively. In Singapore, it is 33 data scientists, while the number stands at 16 and 18 for the United States of America and United Kingdom respectively.

In addition to Recio, the judging panel of Urbanlytics 2019 is made up of the chief information officer of Celcom, Alexandros Paterakis; Ambassador for big data analytics and customer experience of TM Forum, Paul Morrissey; and global director of data analytics of iflix, Bruno Gagliardo.

“This is the fourth datathon organised by Axiata. The successes of previous datathons have unearthed talented individuals, whom we are mentoring and nurturing even after the competitions. Our goal is to develop a pool of world-class data lovers who can hack it out in the real world, providing better solutions,” shared Recio.

The number of participants are double of that from last year’s datathon themed Data Unchained which involved connected cars. This year, the participants will be tasked with using big data to create cashless and low-carbon city solutions with a specific focus on low-carbon mobility planning.

In line with this, the champion team will receive their prize from Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia at the Smart Cities 4.0 conference on Sept 23. The total prize pool of over RM40,000 comprises of six awards which are the Top 3 teams, Best Data Scientist, Best Data Engineer and Best Business Consultant.

According to Willem Smit, professor of marketing at the Asia School of Business and international faculty fellow at MIT, “As population and cities grow, infrastructure and policies have to be efficient in meeting public demand. Data interpretation and analyses hold the key to unlocking the true potential of a city. Urbanlytics 2019 resonates deeply with the Asia School of Business’ aim of creating champions who challenge conventional thinking to affect change.”

Through this collaboration, students of the Masters of Business Administration at Asia School of Business will have the opportunity to learn more about data science. “They come in as business consultants which makes a good mix with the other data scientists and data engineers,” said Smit.

Urbanlytics 2019 has also attracted participants from countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal and Sri Lanka and the United States of America, in addition to Malaysia. Women make up 30% of the total participants.

As part of the build-up to Urbanlytics 2019 and to introduce more diversity into the field, Axiata organised a two-day Women of Data workshop which saw the participation of 145 women congregating to obtain first hand information and experience on what it takes to venture into the field of data science.

The workshop covered the fundamentals of data science, introduced participants to open-sourced and easy to use drag & drop tools, as well as provided hands-on demo on how to perform ETL (extract, transform, load) processes, exploratory data analysis, and data modelling and communication.


Related stories:

Axiata, Asia School of Business and Cities 4.0 collaborate on Urbanlytics Malaysia 2019

Malaysian team wins inaugural global datathon

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