As the world enters into a futuristic period of robots, electric cars, flying vehicles and the internet of things (IoT), there has been a massive growth seen in data collection and storage happening across the globe. The trend of using artificial intelligence is budding in almost all industries, and with this the role of a data science and data analyst professionals is growing high in demand in the region and across the globe.

“We have moved into the era of smart sensors, IoT, cloud storage, smartphones and social media,” says Prof. Dr Fadi Aloul, Department Head, Computer Science and Engineering, and Director of the HP Institute at American University of Sharjah (AUS). “A significant amount of live data streaming occurs 24/7 now, across all industries that were not seen in the past. The cloud services are further making it easier for the organisations to store information.

“The enterprise that needs to be at the top of the game has to become smart at collecting, storing, securing, structuring, managing and analysing the data. Therefore, employing a data scientist who can intelligently extract correlations and observations from the collected data is a growing requirement to get effective and productive outcomes across the UAE.”

SKILLS AND JOB ROLE

A good data scientist has multiple skills from storytelling, business analytics to data engineering, says Dr Krishnadas Nanath, Senior Lecturer — Computer Engineering and Informatics for the School of Science and Technology at Middlesex University Dubai.

“The information that is captured makes sense only if they add business value with the help of use cases like predictions and classifications. For this, the data science graduates are needed to help mine this data and deliver meaningful knowledge that will add great business sense to organisations.”

Talking about the job role, he adds that this will range from generating use cases for a given data set to working on products that deliver data science reports. “Some data science graduates can expect roles that require great statistical knowledge, and others can expect roles that demand IT and coding acumen. They could expect to work on tools such as R, Python, SAS, Tableau and others. Their daily jobs would be around three key areas: data extraction, data transformation (including algorithms) and data loading (visualisation and reports).”

UNIVERSITY PROGRAMMES

Universities in the UAE offer degree curricula and a range of programmes on data sciences to suit students and professionals at various levels. For instance, for undergraduate students, there is an EMC-certified Data Science Course at Middlesex University Dubai and several in-house training programmes for industry professionals, to teach the foundation of data science using tools like R and SAS.

Of the degree programmes, Nanath says, “We have a Data Science/Analytics specialisation for MBA to offers the data science skills from a business mindset. There are various undergraduate courses in the field of science and technology, while postgraduate courses include MSc Engineering Management, MSc Network Management and Cloud Computing and MSc Robotics, which is a new launch for September 2018.”

At AUS, the department of computer science and engineering has a computing school competition and break camp for high school students, where students from schools all across the UAE are invited to participate in a project with themes such as big data, smart cities and AI. The bachelor in computer engineering or computer science exposes students to various modules like IoT, cloud, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, big data and cyber-physical systems, enabling them to become a data scientist. And a three-day crash course certification on using AI for Smart Cities is offered for the professions in industry.

Heriot-Watt University Dubai launched its MSc Data Science programme in September 2017. “The course teaches the theory and skills needed to manage large, complex data sets used in various business and various government departments,” explains Dr Hind Zantout, Director of Postgraduate Studies and Programme Director for MSc Data Science at Heriot-Watt. “Data analytics and machine learning knowledge gained by graduates throughout the course are particularly advantageous for rapidly growing industries such as banking and finance, logistics, information technology, media, advertising, government and the public sector in the UAE.”

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