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Malaysia home to world’s first government staff-certified data scientists

New Straits Times has reported that the Malaysia's Statistics Department has emerged as the world's first government agency to have its staff certified data scientists - thanks to collaboration with SAS Institute.

In an interview with NST Business, SAS Institute executive director of operations, Sheikh Manzoor Ghani commented that data science is a multi-disciplinary practice that involves computer programming, advanced mathematics, artificial intelligence, data visualisation, database administration, data warehousing, and business intelligence. He said: "We trained 211 data scientists last year. We're happy to be of service to Malaysia's Statistics Department and contributing to MDEC's (Malaysia Digital Economy Corp) initiative to promote benefits of embracing digital economy," Monzoor said.

Not only that, Malaysia’s Statistics Department has emerged as the world’s first government Statistical Office that has the most number of SAS-certified data scientists.

Additionally, Dr Karl Ng, MDEC's director of data economy; and Statistics Department's chief Datuk Seri Mohd Uzir Mahidin were also present at the interview.

Ng noted the ubiquity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as the GPS that runs on smartphones and fitbits; as well as devices that make up smart homes.

With the proliferation of IoT, Ng said, there is a need for thousands of data scientists to talk to data, understand, interpret and gain valuable insights from it. He commented: "There are now close to 7,000 data professionals in Malaysia. We hope to achieve 20,000 high-quality data professionals by 2020.”

As Malaysia's chief statistician, Uzir highlighted that “the tools, concepts and practices of analytics hold the key to understanding massive amounts of data.”

He outlined his staff's daily routine, which involves data collection, data modelling and analysis that leads to informed decision-making. As statisticians upskill themselves to become data scientists, they would use computer coding languages to help drive strategies forward using data.

This process requires persistence and software engineering skills; including know-how that are necessary for understanding biases in the data, and for debugging logging output from code.

He noted his team initiated the StatsBDA, a project to enhance the government’s ability to make informed and evidence-based decisions, develop talent in big data analytics as well as responding to the critical needs of the country’s transformation agenda.

In the report, Uzir remarked: "Prior to StatsBDA initiative, our department has developed StatsDW, a comprehensive data warehousing system as a central location and permanent storage which is able to support analysis process.”

"It is essential we keep up with the advent of data-driven technologies. Our collaboration with SAS has created the talent and skills needed to leverage the technologies to carry out an effective big data analytics initiative," he added.

Noting the importance of keeping up with the advent of data-driven technologies, he said: “Our collaboration with SAS Institute has created a talent pipeline to help our staff become more savvy and productive.”

Photo / 123RF

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