Data Science in the Age of COVID-19

On Wednesday, 20th May, 2020, Mr.Tarun Sukhani (CTO & Trainer at Abundant Technology) conducted a webinar titled “Data Science in the Age of COVID-19” for students and staff under the BAC Education Group.

The session commenced with some vital statistics on Covid-19 and work in the “new normal”. In terms of corporations, 48% of companies plan to accelerate automation. The IT sector has also taken a hit with Data Science positions being the least affected. As companies make the transition to the “new normal”, Data Science, Automation and Machine learning are expected to become more popular.

According to Mr. Tharun, the biggest challenge for many have been, working remotely and knowing how to make that transition. This crisis has increased the need for the use of analytics in online commerce (including speech and text analytics such as chatbots for customer support) and inventory management systems.

The key trends in Data Science due to the effects of Covid-19 and the new normal was summarised as follows:

  • Real-time streaming analytics – the demand for cloud and real-time analytics has increased due to the need to monitor websites in real-time and the use of matrix needed to track the Internet of Things(IOT). This in turn highlights the importance of Data Democratization which allows everyone unrestricted access to data.
  • Cloud adoption – the current situation has prompted many data science departments to move their on-premise infrastructure to the cloud. This move has several key benefits such as flexibility, business agility and greater efficiency.
  • Data visualisation – data visualizers who are able to extract and explain their understanding of the data in a brief and clear manner will be in high demand during this crisis.
  • Process automation – this form of automation is also known as Robot Process Automation (RPA) i.e. to reduce costs for repetitive tasks and enable employees to focus on more important activities. The goal of intelligent RPA is to integrate Conversational AI (CAI) Machine Learning (ML) producing smart intelligent bots that can learn over time.
  • Cognitive insight –  to extract meaningful patterns and relationships from our data that can be used to relate to humans, either through a chatbot or via a simple chat. Ideally, the goal is human-computer interfaces that are also very knowledgeable and insightful.
  • Cognitive engagement – engaging with customers via the use of intelligent chatbots available 24/7 and multilingual as well.

Essentially, Data Science is useful to make predictions based on quality data. How the data was collected will create strong patterns in the data. An example was a chart showing deaths from COVID-19 at hospitals in the UK with big drops in cases every Sunday and Monday. This was not a fact but due to how the data was collected and reported. The explanation was simple, hospitals did not have their full staff on weekends and as a result the cases were only reported after the all the staff returned to work and recorded them. Therefore any models built on that data will be inaccurate.

Towards the end of the session Mr.Navin (Senior Manager, Business Developlment, BAC Education Group) introduced the following courses taught by Mr.Tarun;

  • Certificate in Data Science (Foundation)
  • Certificate in Artificial Intelligence
  • Certificate in Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Professional Certificate in DEVOPS
  • Professional Certificate in Data Science (Advanced)
  • Professional Certificate in Data Science & Analytics

Some of these courses are funded by HRDF, where half of the fee is borne by the student and the remaining half is covered by HRDF. Mr.Tarun then elaborated on two areas covered by the courses, namely, RPA and AI.

The RPA involves the use of software bots. These are programmes that constantly run in the background and execute tasks e.g. bots creating or responding to emails, doing calculations from a spreadsheet, bots analysing data, generating reports and bots interacting with chatbots to collect certain data or requests. Many of these bots work in the background across many different companies. Some of them check inventory and supply chain fulfillment.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of Data Science. AI or machine learning deals with how machines are able to take data and make predictions. Data Science focuses on gathering data, analysing it and then passing it to AI models that will then make predictions.

The session came to a close with viewers participating in a Q&A session with the guest speaker and Mr Navin.