Exploring AI and data science with Robert Gordon University and IIT

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Data is moulding our future, it allows us to predict consumer behaviour patterns, optimise services and enhance the way the world works. For Sri Lanka to join the fourth industrial revolutions,  it would require a skilled set of creative problem solvers who are capable of formulating solutions to this rapidly changing environment. Opening up pathways for the youth of Sri Lanka to learn, create and innovate is IIT’s topmost priority. IIT in collaboration with Robert Gordon University has begun offering a BSc (Hons) Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, an intensive course set for students to explore the new language of creativity. 

The online forum that took place over zoom last Thursday evening, the 20th of August 2020, was moderated by Dr. Damitha Karunaratna, Head of department Computing Informatics Institute of Technology. The panel of speakers consisted of John Isaacs, Head of school, Robert Gordon University-UK,  Prof. Nirmalie Wiratunga, professor of Intelligent Systems Research, Robert Gordon University-UK and industry giant, Shevan Goonetilleke – President and General Manager of Integration Business WSO2 and Board Member / Director of Operations, SLASSCOM.

Why join the AI & data science programme at IIT?

According to Dr. John Isaacs,  Intel, CISCO and Ericson predict between 29 and 75 billion connected devices by 2025. The need for smarter technology is prevalent and industries are using data to innovate like never before.  Robert Gordon University utilises research-driven teaching practices to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit of graduates. The data science programme incorporates statistics, machine learning and data analysis to gear students towards their futures. 

As an IIT alumnus herself, Professor Nirmalies described the AI and data science programme offered as one set to provide the cream of AI education to keen and dynamic students based in    Sri Lanka. The forum ran through the modules offered, core modules such as research trends and data engineering and the optional modules such as machine visions that students can decide to add onto their course credits. 

We’re swimming in an ocean of data

IIT | Data Science | AI
90% of the data that exists today was created in the past 2 years. Thanks to the many devices in our lives, we now create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. (Image credits: CSO)

We have Siri and we have Alexa, but when would our AI start understanding the questions we ask and formulate responses that are customised instead of template answers? Professor Nirmalie in her presentation showed a snapshot of the Gartner Hype Cycle for AI, 2019 with predictions that we should see technology such as Neuromorphic systems and conversational AI in the next 5 to 10 years. 

In the past 2 years, we have created 90% of data that exists in the world and every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. The average person would create enough data that would amount to 300 books in their lifetime. Which raises the question, how are we analysing all this data and how important is it to start formulating meaningful insights? Companies are now realigning their mission to incorporate and stay dedicated to AI. From medical health using Fitbit records to Google using federated learning for next word predictions, Professor Nirmalies presentation covered topics that show students the direction of the future. 

As an IIT alumnus herself, she described the AI and data science programme offered as one set to provide the cream of AI education to keen and dynamic students based in Sri Lanka. The forum ran through the modules offered, core modules such as research trends and data engineering and the optional modules such as machine visions that students can decide to add onto their course credits. 

The robots are replacing us?

IIT | Data Science | AI

Shevan Goontelike began his presentation with a shot of a drone delivering pizza and went on to explain how these optimised practices are being explored and are not only incredibly useful in the time of a pandemic such as the one we are in right now, but allow for faster, efficient delivery of services. However, as these robots enter the workforce, it raises the question, where does it leave opportunity for us mere humans? 

The idea of AI can be feared, or it can be embraced for the potential it has to catapult us into the unknown. The creation of more jobs that allow humans the space to do what we do best through creation and innovation requires complexity, knowledge and skill. Shevan reflects on how far we have come as a race, and even IIT growing from where they were when he was an undergraduate to the extensive list of courses offered now. 

The perspectives from an industry viewpoint in Sri Lanka is to believe in the potential that we as a nation have to move forward. During his presentation, Shevan recognized IIT graduates being highly sought after and the programmes produce professionals who can grow domestic markets to compete at international standards.

Sri Lanka on the cusp of the digital future 

Building capacity for the youth to take off into the unknown right here at home is a reality that once did not exist. Hybridization of roles in industries requires data science to drive strategic transformations. Opportunities to experience and learn through world-class programmes are at the fingertips of those willing to grab it. From Aberdeen to our island nation, RGU in collaboration with IIT, an institute that has provided higher education for 30 years in the country, is now offering for the first time an AI and data science programme that empowers the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs for an excellent future.

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