How the Lagos R User Group Has Leveraged the Pandemic

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Folajimi Aroloye is a data analytics professional and educator. He is the organizer for the Lagos R User Group. He is involved in capacity building. Folajimi started his data science journey in December 2017, using R at Wema Bank in Nigeria. According to him, it has been both challenging and exciting fitting into different roles and wearing different hats in the organization.

What is the R community like in Nigeria?

The community in Nigeria has grown over time, and it is exciting to see how many people use R. The user groups and occasional meetups have encourage people to come out of their shells. Although it may seem that there are no R users, our meetups are usually packed. The recently concluded useR conference had many Africans registering as attendees and most of them were Nigerians. 

The Lagos RUG started in March 2019. Interest is not limited to R user groups; several data science communities also use R. While some use Python, others use both R and Python programming languages. 

I can firmly say that the R language is gaining more ground in Africa, especially Nigeria. Several financial institutions, tertiary schools, and organizations use R to carry out research and execute their day-to-day activities. It is an interesting space to be a part of, more effort just needs to be made to create awareness and drive the adoption for the use of R.

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? For example, did you use GitHub, video conferencing, online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future? How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

In a way, I don’t think we were affected by COVID. WhatsApp has been the major platform for communication, but we were already leveraging these types of platforms prior to this time. We have a Slack group, but communication wasn’t seamless as some people found it hard to keep up with messages on the platform. We employed the use of WhatsApp for community engagement and collaborated more on Github. 

What COVID did for us was to help us save funds. For all our meetups, we made refreshments available and also had to pay for spaces we used for these meetups, so COVID helped us save money as we moved to a more virtual space. The money was converted and used to pay for much larger access on Zoom to accommodate more persons.

Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting and what was the topic and why was it so interesting? 

At an event last year, we had an interesting session on “Machine learning with R.”  It was an eye-opener. From the analysis we took of the attendees, we had more beginners in the community, and it was interesting to new R users as well as Machine Learning enthusiasts. It was facilitated by Oluseyi Ajayi, one of the members of the community. We spent most of the year 2019 building the right competence in data analytics and entering into the year 2020, we saw the need to progress in the data science learning path.

The model we run in Lagos is an open and safe space; this means any member can speak. Our system is designed to expose new talents to the community and other larger companies. The only session I facilitated was the orientation in 2019. Members of the user groups are allowed to speak about their growth, challenges, and what they are currently learning. We have an executive body that organizes these meetups and reaches out to speakers. 

We are not biased in the sense that we have created opportunities for everybody to speak despite their levels of programming knowledge. From beginners to professionals our user group allows members to have the stage. We are building the Lagos R users group to be the template for other user groups in Nigeria and across Africa. 

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

I see a lot of people coming into Data Science as Africa is the hotspot for new tech talent. Also, a lot of people are using Python for data science, but other sectors like financial institutions and research institutes use R which means data scientists and data analysts would need to use R more for their analysis. So, a new trend would be a blend of the use of R and Python for data science across Africa. 

Do you know of any data journalism efforts by your members? If not, are there particular data journalism projects that you’ve seen in the last year that you feel had a positive impact on society?

I am not aware of any on a personal level, but some organizations use R in Data Journalism. Notable mentions include Stears Business, Nairametrics, and many more. These organizations have a knack for using data to help create public awareness and education on key matters that affects society. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?

SatRdays and Software Carpentry R Instructor Training; additional support for trainers and facilitators. With SatRdays, there has been a rich source of resources for newbies and the R community.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?

Code Coverage: supporting the ecosystem and making available the best and updated tools to use is high for me on my choice of the Active Working Groups I see as a favorite. Having a tool that supports the breadth of the R language across multiple platforms, and that is used by R package developers and R core teams, helps to improve software quality for the R Community.

When is your next event? Please give details!

Presently, I can’t go into details but we will have a virtual 1-day session to evaluate the past year and plan for the future.

The post How the Lagos R User Group Has Leveraged the Pandemic appeared first on R Consortium.

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