Collaborative Growth: The Botswana R User Group and Regional Partnerships

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Last year, Edson Kambeu, founder and organizer of the Botswana R User Group, shared his plans with the R Consortium to implement data into local businesses in the New R Community in Botswana Wants to Implement Data Into Local Businesses. He recently updated the R Consortium about the group’s growth and recent activities. The group has attracted a global audience through its online events and actively collaborates with R User Groups in the region.

The Botswana R User Group is seeking speakers for their upcoming online events. If you are an R expert interested in sharing your experience with R users in Botswana, please contact Edson at [email protected].

Please share about your background and involvement with the RUGS group.

My educational background is in finance. I pursued finance and investments for my master’s degree but also studied economics during my undergraduate years. Mathematics has been my strongest subject since primary school, and I’m passionate about it. This passion led me to develop an interest in Statistics and statistical software.

In the past, I mainly used SPSS, Stata, and EViews for my statistical analysis projects. Then, someone introduced me to data science. During my research on data science, I discovered that two popular programming languages are used for it. I installed Python for the first time, but I could not use it as I didn’t have a computer science background. So, I switched to R and started watching a few YouTube videos. From there, I continued to learn and improve my skills in R.

R was my first language of choice for Data Science. Currently, I use both R and Python for my work.

I am pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science with Data Science from the University of Sunderland. Our different modules use R and Python, and knowing both languages is helping me in my studies.  

As I was learning R around 2019 and beginning to follow several R Users on Twitter, I discovered that small R communities gathered together to learn and share knowledge about it. R Ladies Johannesburg in South Africa inspired me the most, as they held events more frequently during that time. I then became interested in starting an R User community in Botswana.

In February 2020, I reached out to Heather Turner, who was scheduled to visit Botswana and other Southern African countries to conduct Introduction to R workshops. During our conversation, Heather provided me with all the information needed to start a community. As a result, in March 2020, Botswana R Users was established during Heather Turner’s Introduction to R workshop.

How has your group been doing since we last talked? 

Our meetup group had about 100 members when we last talked to you. We now have almost 400 members. However, I have observed that people from different countries are joining us. We are now a global meetup group rather than a Botswana User group. This is because we mostly hold online meetups, which allow people from other countries to join. 

Participants attending an online meetup hosted by Botswana R users in collaboration with Estwatini R Users and Bulawayo R

We are, however, still committed to growing the local community. We want to see more local participation in our meetup group. Last year, we collaborated with R Ladies Gaborone to organize an introduction to R workshop to increase our local membership. We are pleased to announce that this year, we plan to hold another workshop as a pre-conference event in the upcoming Botswana Deep Learning Indaba conference in July 2024. This workshop will help us to increase our local membership further and create more awareness about our group.

Participant at the Introduction to R Workshop held in collaboration between Botswana R users and R Ladies Gaborone

We value collaborations with our partner R User meetup groups in Southern Africa. In recent years, we have had regular meetups involving collaborative efforts with the Bulawayo R User Group from Zimbabwe, the Eswatini R User Group from Swaziland, and the Namibia R User Group from Namibia. We have established a routine of holding joint meetups almost every two months, depending on the availability of speakers. The idea is to grow our communities by increasing the frequency of activities. 

Vebash Naidoo of RLadies Jozi presenting in an online meetup for Botswana R Users 

You have a Meetup titled “GIS and Creating Dashboards in R. A case study of conflicts events in Kenya,” can you share more on the topic covered? Why this topic? 

I had an opportunity to attend a series of workshops and webinars organized by the United Nations for their Datathon. I realized the importance of GIS in advancing sustainable development. In January 2024, I invited Godwin Murithi, a GIS specialist, to present a topic on GIS. The topic was “GIS and Creating Dashboards in R. A case study of conflict events in Kenya.” We wanted to expose our members to the rising field of GIS and show them how the R language and various packages can help solve GIS problems. It was a fascinating topic for our participants, and they loved it. 

How has the use of R evolved in the industry since we last talked?

We are observing an increasing acceptance of the R programming language, particularly in universities. Some universities have adopted R as their primary language for statistics and quantitative programs. This trend indicates academic institutions’ growing preference for open source programming languages.

Any techniques you recommend using for planning for or during the event? (Github, zoom, other) Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?   

Organizing is one of the most challenging tasks. To get speakers, I have primarily used Twitter (now called X) and LinkedIn to communicate with people who might want to speak at our meetup groups. Lately, there has been a problem with sending direct messages on Twitter. The reason is that Twitter has changed its messaging system. Now, to send a direct message, you need to be verified. I have been affected by the fact that my usual way of talking to people has been disrupted. Therefore, I have resorted to using LinkedIn to search for people interested in R and reach out to them. Sometimes, they are too busy or cancel, which can be challenging. However, I have been successful in finding potential speakers through these platforms.

Occasionally, we use different video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet. We usually rely on these two platforms. However, sometimes a speaker may prefer using Google Meet over Zoom, so we try to be flexible and accommodate their preferences.

We also use GitHub. We have our account, and if the speaker has their material on GitHub, they can share the link with us. Alternatively, they can provide us with the material directly, and we will upload it onto our own GitHub account for the community to access. Ultimately, it all depends on the speaker’s preference.

Please share about a project you are working on or have worked on using the R language. What is the goal/reason, result, or anything interesting, especially related to the industry you work in?

One of my recent school projects was to create a dashboard about UK imports and exports, which I completed towards the end of last year. I developed this project using Shiny and R packages such as Shiny Dashboard, ggplot2, and dplyr

I’m currently working on another project that is still in its early stages. The goal of this project is to identify areas in Botswana that require greater financial inclusion. I am currently gathering data and plan to utilize R and Python to apply geospatial techniques.

What trends do you currently see in R language and your industry? Any trends you see developing in the near future?

I have observed that people find Quarto and GIS techniques interesting. The community is gaining increasing interest in these areas, and I foresee the increasing use of R in GIS applications. 

How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups organize, share information, and support each other worldwide. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 68,000 members in 33 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute.

The post Collaborative Growth: The Botswana R User Group and Regional Partnerships appeared first on R Consortium.

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