Strengthening a national data visualisation and analytics capability to support government decision-making

Project Status: 

The CSIR has developed and is implementing a programme to strengthen the national capability in data visualisation and analytics.

The need for the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enhancement (DSIDE) Programme stems from the exponential growth in the volume of data that have become available from sensors, satellites, social media and other sources. One of the challenges associated with this growth in data is how to draw insights, forecast and act on these massive datasets. South Africa’s cabinet-approved ICT RDI Roadmap highlighted that such a capability is required for sound decision-making by government officials. Research conducted for the roadmap also revealed a need for this capability in the private sector with potential as an export capability related to data analytics.

The DSIDE programme targets third-year and final-year students in the fields of engineering, computer science, business informatics, mathematics and statistics. Students spend a total of 12 weeks at the CSIR, Pretoria campus, where they are allocated to mentors. The mentors introduce the students to machine-learning topics, tools, theories and provide them with datasets on which to apply these techniques. The students are then required to work on real-world projects, develop prototypes and present their understanding of the dataset with new insights acquired through interactive visual exploration, analytics and model development.

Projects included, among others, preventative maintenance analyses for the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development and Transnet Engineering, evidence-based policy models for the National Department of Health and the Department of Transport and financial tracking of programmes related to the National Development Plan for the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

In 2015, 32 students were selected from 11 tertiary institutions in South Africa.