It can be difficult running an R user group in a country where R does not have a large following. R Consortium talked with Francis Mensah, who runs the R Users group in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Francis discussed how they went virtual during the pandemic, and how they are working on ways to help grow R users in Ghana.
Francis is a Statistical Consultant, Data Quality Scientist, Chief Operations Manager, M$E Fellow, Programmer, Data Analyst, and Principal R Organizer and co-founder for the Accra R Users Group. He is also a Business Development Consultant for Kims International. Kims International provides M&E, Research and Capacity Building in education, public health, gender, water and sanitation and livelihood for governmental and non-governmental institutions.
RC: What is the R community like in Accra?
FM: The R community in Accra is relatively new. Most people here are not aware of it. Most people here use Stata or SPSS, as they are taught in schools here. Awareness in Ghana is relatively low for R. We are trying to create awareness of R through our group.
RC: How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?
FM: Because of restrictions imposed, we have not been able to meet face to face. Because of this, we meet online. We were planning our first meeting when COVID came. We meet almost every weekend virtually. We get people from not just Accra, but a lot of international people as well.
RC: In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? For example, did you use GitHub, video conferencing, online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?
FM: For our meetings, we use zoom, goto meeting, and WhatsApp to meet virtually. These work best for us. We will also try to have a Ghana R conference with other groups as well. We will use the same apps for our meeting for the country-wide one.
RC: Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting and what was the topic and why was it so interesting?
FM: What Every Data Scientist Must Know About Teaching and Learning by Greg Wilson. Everyone was happy and excited after the presentation. It opened our eyes. When going through the technology we use, it can be difficult to see. He used images to go through the talk. They were highly effective. It was so well received that members asked when the speaker was coming through again. It was very exciting and it opened our eyes to teaching and learning for all of our members, including me.
Another good one was given by Dr. Riinu about ggplot that we were excited about because it was about graphics. The part that we liked was that she gave out exercises to try during the presentation.
RC: What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?
FM: Over the next year we believe using R to get insight into and finding solutions for Health, finance, Agriculture and the economy as a whole. With the census ongoing, we hope to get data for some of these.
RC: Do you know of any data journalism efforts by your members? If not, are there particular data journalism projects that you’ve seen in the last year that you feel had a positive impact on society?
FM: We have one member who uses data to tell stories about events that happen in Ghana. She uses it for data presentations.
RC: When is your next event? Please give details!
FM: We are having a speaker from Argentina speak. She will talk about creating packages using learnr through R. This will be in September. We also have a speaker in September from Spain who will also talk about creating a package in R as well. We will also do local programs on zoom in the meantime.
RC: Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?
RC: Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?
FM: R Certification. Being proficient in R will also help in our effort to spread the use of R in Ghana as a whole and it’s also a source of motivation to do more with R
RC: There are four projects that are R Consortium Top Level Projects. If you could add another project to this list for guaranteed funding for 3 years and a voting seat on the ISC, which project would you add?
FM: I think something along the lines of R Clinics to bring awareness in all tertiary institutions and industry. For instance, they could develop R clinics and workshops in Ghana that professor’s and industry players or members would use the software. Again Data journalism would be great here in Ghana
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