Why I Taught Data Science in Yoruba — Wuraola Oyewusi

A data scientist and pharmacist, Wuraola Oyewusi, says ENENAITE BLESSING about his career, achievements and other issues

What influenced your decision to become a data scientist and pharmacist?

The shortest story about this (what influenced my decision to be a data scientist and pharmacist) is that when I was reading job descriptions I saw one about data analytics and I thought I could definitely do everything on the list except Structured Query Language (which is a standardized programming language used to manage relational databases and perform various operations on the data in them).

I decided to find out what it meant online and take a free course on it. Then I came across Python programming and data science, which I decided to give a try.

I studied Pharmacy at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State. I started my career in clinical pharmacy, then transitioned into data science, which I learned online. In fact, I discovered data science and artificial intelligence by chance.

What are your notable accomplishments so far?

I led my team in 19 publications related to data science, AI and crowdsourcing on Nigerian data in research and innovation in two years.

I was also involved in a project related to the use of AI for handwritten prescriptions which was among the top 100 AI projects in the early stages of the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization scientific.

I have been named among the 80 African women advancing artificial intelligence in Africa and around the world. Additionally, I am a contributing author to Springer’s AI in Medicine textbook. I’m also the author of Hands-On Natural Language Processing, an AI course on LinkedIn Learning.

I was also included in the Top 100 Women in Tech in 2020 as a Nigerian leader in Artificial Intelligence for Development.

What is your professional trajectory?

First of all, I would like to say that I have enjoyed every phase of my career; from clinical pharmacy to data science, data curation and AI research and innovation. However, I am currently working as a data science and data curation researcher at Imperial College London, England.

From 2019 to 2022, I was the Head of Data Science Research and Innovation in Nigeria. Before that, I was a pharmacist at eHealth Africa.

You recently received accolades for teaching data science in the Yoruba language. What inspired you to do it?

There was no great philosophical reason. I was just having fun and having fun. I speak very good Yoruba and am good at data science. So, I thought, why can’t I teach data science in Yoruba? This is a series about different technological concepts explained in Yoruba. I guess people preferred the one on data science.

How would you describe the reception of your work so far?

It was great. If no one likes it, I’ll do it anyway. I am grateful for the outpouring of love. I have been creating technical/academic content related to the application of data science/AI methodologies in Yoruba for a long time. It’s good that non-technical people can relate to it and that technical people can benefit from it as well.

What challenges do you face as a data scientist/researcher?

I really don’t have any to make a good story. Challenges are exactly what I get paid for. My general philosophy is to do a great job and that’s what I always do.

What does it take to become a data scientist?

It takes expertise to derive insight from data and the ability to convince your employer or client that you can do it.

Data science is not as common as other courses in Nigeria. How can its study be encouraged in the country?

Although data science is not mainstream, the courses that make up data science are already there. They include computer science, statistics and mathematics.

However, there should be more awareness about data science education to encourage the work of organizations. This would help bring knowledge of the concept to the minds of Nigerians. The market is global and the Internet is generous. So young people or anyone interested should get on the train.

As an advocate of artificial intelligence, what steps can Nigeria take to make it more mainstream in the country?

(The country should) be intentional about this. The lowest fruit will be data curation, not just data collection; the preservation of useful and usable data.

Some people have said that the adoption of AI will only increase human unemployment in Nigeria. What do you have to say about this?

AI will not cause more unemployment for humans in the country. AI is not magic. New roles will emerge with its presence and the best thing to do is to optimize it. The market is also global. It is worth paying attention to it.

It is assumed that people who study data science have a higher level of intelligence quotient. What is your opinion on this?

I don’t know about this hypothesis, but it’s not magical or mystical. It’s a set of skills.

As a pharmacist, have you ever participated in the development of a drug?

No I do not have.

Some people have said that tech companies should use locals for their native works, including Google Maps, especially for pronouncing local names. What is your position on this?

If it relates to how data is organized for AI models, the typical process involves a native or fluent speaker. Perhaps the concern is to have a better representation in the training data. If this is it, then there is a global push for this inclusion.

What do you think the government can do best to support data scientists in the country?

It is the same need for any other type of innovation. The need includes light (electricity) and an excellent school schedule.

More and more women are making waves in areas previously classified as male-dominated. What is the cause will you tell me?

Mastery and expertise are independent of gender. People are great at what they do and women are people who have been great and are still great at what they do.

How would you describe the reception of your work among Nigerians and non-Nigerians?

I don’t have this data (on people’s reception of my work) but the impact of my work as a researcher is global.

What motivates you as a data scientist?

I appreciate good work and I also eat (to keep myself alive).

Did your parents support your career choice?

Yes. My father and my mother have always supported me.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders?

I have a big family and strong friends. They are my biggest cheerleaders.

What are your memorable moments as a data scientist/pharmacist?

My first job offer abroad as a data scientist was memorable for me. I knew I had taken the right shot when a team found me through a technical article I had written. It was nice.

What are your hobbies?

I like to stay calm and have good conversations.

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