PEPFAR Scholars Award Ceremony Press Release
Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) and Tanzania Data Lab (dLab), in partnership with the U.S. Government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief award full scholarships for University of Dar es Salaam Students
Dar es Salaam, TANZANIA. Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) and Tanzania Data Lab (dLab) through The U.S. Government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have awarded full scholarships to four students admitted to the inaugural class of the new two-year Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), College of Information and Communication Technology (CoICT). Mr. Stephen Chacha, DCLI Country Coordinator for Tanzania officially announced the recipients of the four scholarships, competitively selected from 22 applicants, two of whom are women.
“The aspiring data scientists have committed to apply the skills they will gain on finding ways to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Tanzania. For example, nearly half of Tanzanians living with AIDS are unaware of their status; we hope the PEPFAR scholars can find data-based and innovative ways to focus specific intervention or strategically place testing locations to change this statistic!” said Mr. Chacha.
The scholarships are the result of a fruitful relationship between the University of Dar es Salaam College of Information and Communication Technology (UDSM CoICT) and the Tanzania Data Lab (dLab). A memorandum of agreement was recently signed extending CoICT’s commitment to host the dLab for at least five more years. The dLab will support CoICT’s in launching the Masters of Science in Data Science (MSDS), the first such Masters in Data Science in East Africa.
On his part, Dr. Honest Kimaro, CoICT Head, Computer Science and Engineering Department, on behalf of CoICT’s Principal, Dr. Mussa Kissaka, said the programme aims to develop skills in machine learning, advance data management, data analytics, and data visualization which are in high demands in the industry and public sector.
“We believe with the establishment of the MSDS programme, we will be able to meet the growing demands for data scientists at various levels including professionals, consultants and researchers, in an endeavor to fill current country knowledge and skill gaps in the data science sub-discipline,” said Dr. Kimaro.
On her part, as one of the PEPFAR Scholars, Ms. Upendo Mchome, applauded PEPFAR and CoICT for the opportunity and saying the progamme will spur decision making, and help bringing up more interventions especially in the area of HIV/AIDS.
“Data is the key factor that need to be considered when making decisions, therefore this programme will help us gain the skills in data collection and analysis, so that we can share them to the decision makers,” noted Ms Upendo.
The dLab was established by the DCLI program, funded by the U.S. Government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and implemented by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). DCLI engages and builds skills among individuals, communities and organizations to solve problems related to HIV/AIDS, health, gender equality and economic growth.
CoICT created the MSDS in response to the interest generated amongst students on campus by the activities of the dLab, broadly among Tanzanian youth. To support the establishment of the MSDS, DCLI enabled a partnership between the dLab and the University of Virginia Data Science Institute to ensure that the MSDS program can access a global experience base in applied data science. CoICT faculty and students will be able to take online classes, collaborate on research, and network to solve pressing problems.
In 2015 MCC and PEPFAR created the Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) program to help achieve sustainable epidemic control and to build upon the strengths of both agencies. In Tanzania since 2016, DCLI builds the capacity of individuals, communities and organizations to use data and technology to help fight HIV/AIDS, improve health, promote gender equality, keep children in school, and contribute to economic empowerment, all of which are factors related HIV/AIDs risks. Through the DLI Innovation Challenge, Data Zetu (which promotes data use at the local level through art, music and design), and the dLab (a space that fosters data literacy, innovation and collaboration), DCLI has surfaced local data-driven solutions across Tanzania. In May, MCC and PEPFAR expanded the DCLI program to Côte d’Ivoire to improve data literacy to help with PEPFAR priorities in a second country, while concurrently leveraging opportunities of the MCC Compact.
Launched in April 2016, the dLab is a center of excellence and data collaboration that promotes data literacy and innovation and enables Tanzanians to use data to address health and sustainability priorities, including contributing to sustainable control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is strategically located at UDSM CoICT.
Data analysis helps to better understand the dynamics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic allowing Tanzanians to have better access to HIV services which complements PEPFAR programs. Since PEPFAR’s inception in Tanzania in 2003, AIDS-related deaths decreased 70% and HIV programs in Tanzania prevented 1.1 million new infections and 690,000 deaths. This shift has emphasized the importance of data and data literacy for community workers, health professionals, and individuals, so that they may help in attaining an AIDS-free generation.