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SA startup paves the way for others

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To develop the necessary skills to fill in the data analytics and business intelligence talent shortage in South Africa, Cape Town-based start-up and leading local machine learning specialists, DataProphet note that a newly designed postgraduate programme is the first vital step to help the country become more globally competitive in this regard.
While US-based tertiary institutions like Stanford University and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have long offered specialised courses to upskill working postgraduates in the field of computer software and media applications, South African institutions have – until now – left this requirement unaddressed.
This is according to Natasha-Jade Chandler, Head of Operations for DataProphet – one of the collaborators involved in the design of the Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Software and Media Applications (with specialisation in Data Analytics and Business Intelligence) to be offered by the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences of the University of the Western Cape from January 2017.
Chandler highlights findings from a recent IBM survey of African IT leaders (from South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria) which notes that respondents identified mobile, analytics, social and cloud as critical elements of business success.
However, she emphasises that these respondents also identify the lack of talent in this regard as one of the primary reasons for being unable to pursue these increasingly essential technologies.
“The newly designed programme is definitely a major step in addressing this gap in South Africa – as well as the African continent as a whole – ultimately assisting companies in creating much needed job opportunities by putting South Africa on the map as a data analytics business process outsourcing destination,” Chandler adds.
Working alongside other industry leaders, including members of Business Process enablement South Africa (BPeSA), Pivotal Analytics, Capitec, Nimble Group, EXL, Compuscan, the Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, lecturers from various other academic departments at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). DataProphet’s involvement adds an entrepreneurial and practical perspective to the course.
The Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at UWC, Professor Kobus Visser, states that the new postgraduate diploma is indeed a first for any South African university. “It clearly indicates the commitment and collaboration between higher education institutions and the world of work to be responsive to the needs of the business community so that we can collectively develop employment opportunities in and for the digital economy,” he says.
Registration for the postgraduate diploma will open in September 2016 and will initially be offered as a part-time course over a maximum period of eighteen months. Applicants will be subjected to a selection procedure as admission capacity is limited.
DataProphet Commercial Director and Co-Founder, Daniel Schwartzkopff says, “Having first-hand experience working in the machine learning field within the South African and American contexts, we are excited to be involved in the design and development of this course.
“Not only a lasting legacy for our business, this course is likely to go a long way in truly optimising our existing talent,” he concludes.