Conference Seek to Leverage on Big Data for Health and Food Security

Prof. Achia (right) makes his presentation during the opening ceremony. Listening on (from right) is Ms. Mugo, Mr. Athiany and Dr. Kiragga

JKUAT staff and students joined fellow colleagues from 21 countries for the four-day Sub-Saharan Africa Network (SUSAN) Conference hosted by the International Biometrics Society (IBS), Kenya Chapter, September 6-9, 2021.

The Sub-Saharan Africa Network (SUSAN) of the International Biometrics Society is a network of national biometric groups of Sub-Saharan African countries that promotes the advancement of life sciences through the development, application, and dissemination of effective mathematical and statistical methods.

The regional conference for statisticians brings together over 130 students, academics, researchers and professionals in Africa, working on a wide range of areas, including, but not limited to Bayesian statistics, application of big data and data science methods.

This year’s conference held virtually is themed ‘Biometry in the era of Big Data for Health and Food Security,’ and marks the 17th staging of the biennial conference.

The Local Organising Committee Chair, Prof. Thomas Achia said the conference had been staged at an opportune time where the globe is facing a myriad of health challenges and food insecurity.

“I am glad to note that we will have stimulating talks on the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the globe as statisticians play their part in combating the virus,” said Prof. Achia, a Senior Statistician, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

To build the capacity of the statistics career in the region, Prof. Achia said the Network was establishing a mentor-mentee programme in a bid to empower the young statisticians. He encouraged the postgraduate students attending the conference to enroll for the programme and take advantage of the experience the mentors bring.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, Prof. Achia said statisticians cannot ignore the revolution of big data in day to day life and must be cognizant of the volume, velocity and variety of the data being produced.

“As it has been rightly said, information (read data) is the oil of the 21st Century, and data analytics is the combustion engine,” said Prof. Achia, adding that the conference will see presentations that will showcase developments and new initiatives in biometrics that address the developments in big data.

SUSAN Secretary, IBS Kenya Chairman and JKUAT Biostatistics Lecturer, Mr. Henry Athiany said the conference set aside a special session that focused on modelling the COVID-19 data.

“Coordinated international strategies to fight the virus and its impact including economic impact are more effective than going it alone,” said Mr. Athiany.

Over the course of the four days, the conference will delve on mathematical and statistical applications in agriculture, medical and health research, infectious diseases, environment and ecology, climate, and other applied sciences such as statistical genetics and bioinformatics.

A section of the 135 participants of the SUSAN Conference drawn from 21 countries

This will be covered through keynote and panel presentations, plenaries and poster presentation sessions.

Dr. Agnes Kiragga from Uganda said it was gratifying to note that the conference gave a platform to interact with existing resources to support big data in the agricultural sector to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition.

The conference saw a number of JKUAT staff and students make presentations including Prof. Samuel Mwalili, Dr. Joseph Mung’atu, Ms. Carol Mugo, Amos Ochieng Okutse, Carol Obura, Peter Kimani, Walter Yodah, Moses Kuyo, and Winnie Chacha.

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