University of Essex
University of Essex

November 4, 2016

The first UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science

Professor Maria Fasli is to become the first UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science. Here she explains what the project will involve and how it will draw on Essex’s excellent track record in data analytics and data science research.

Professor Maria Fasli  is to become the first UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science.

Professor Maria Fasli is to become the first UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science.

Data underpins almost every aspect of human life, and there is huge potential in unlocking economic growth from analysing and extracting knowledge from data.

You cannot escape data, but many developing and transitioning countries have an acute lack of skills in data science and analytics, creating a barrier to economic growth and becoming a knowledge economy.

We want to rise to the challenge of addressing this data inequality by giving developing and transitioning countries the skills they need to lift them out of poverty and compete in today’s global digital economy.

One of the key objectives of the UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science team is to highlight the critical role that data plays in promoting equality, sustainable development and how it can enhance people’s lives. The more people have access to data, the more you increase transparency within a country.

At Essex, we have expertise in research in analytics and data science, coupled with a commitment to a high-quality transformative education experience. This means we are ideally placed to equip people from developing and transitioning countries with advanced data analytics skills capable of transforming businesses, creating technopreneurs who can innovate and develop new businesses, creating jobs and supporting economic growth and closing the gap between knowledge-rich and knowledge-poor countries.

Working with our international collaborators, we will support the development of a research base and skills specifically focusing on developing and transitioning countries.

In addressing this skills gap, through targeted scholarship and training programmes, we will be improving people’s data literacy, meaning they will be upskilled to have the tools to positively contribute to and participate in public life, increasing their ability to make informed decisions, and to hold organisations and institutions to account.

With the demand for data specialists expected to grow worldwide by 160% between 2013 and 2020, digital services and information will play a pivotal role as developing economies grow.

UNESCO and the international community’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals include key aims around how big data and the data revolution can be harnessed for sustainable development and I will be collaborating with other members of the global UNESCO Chair’s network to help deliver these goals.

The scale of the challenge is huge and this four-year project is just the start of a long process to help developing and transitioning countries get the data expertise they need to create a knowledge workforce and become self-reliant. But I am delighted that Essex is playing such a key role in such an important and exciting project, and I look forward to drawing on colleagues’ expertise from across the University as well as working with international collaborators and organisations to make substantive progress in this field and support sustainable development through harnessing the power of data and digital technologies.