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Osun R User Group in Nigeria talks about Spreading the Gospel of R across Africa

By December 13, 2021April 21st, 2022Blog

The R consortium spoke with Timothy Ogunleye on adapting to fit the system during the lockdown. We found out how they were able to adjust and move from having so many in-person meetups to virtual sessions largely through WhatsApp.

Timothy holds a Master of Science (M.Sc.) and Bachelor of Science (B.Sc. – Hons.) in Statistics with 2nd Class Upper Division from the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. Currently, he is close to finishing his doctorate degree under the supervision of Prof. A.O. Adejumo. 

Timothy has also trained at the Department of Computing of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, and has been certified as an R and Python Programmer (expert) in the field of Data Science. And he has obtained a national diploma (ND) and higher national diploma (HND) certification in Statistics from the Federal Polytechnic in Osun State in Nigeria.

Tim, as he is proudly called by his friends and colleagues, has at least 15 years of experience in both industry and academia. He has been a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) consultant, data analyst, and epidemiology and health consultant with more than 40 reports produced. He has worked with many local and international NGOs, including the United Nations. In addition, he has published at least 13 journal articles both locally and internationally. Tim is a Member of the Science Association of Nigeria (SAN), the Nigerian Statistical Association (NSA), the Nigerian Association of Mathematical Physics (NAMP); and the International Association for Statistical Computing (IASC).

What is the R community like in Nigeria?

In Nigeria currently, there are a lot of R users and user groups. We have preached the gospel of R to over 2000 people all over Nigeria. Our R symposiums were always packed with 150 – 200 attendees. Our R meetups were held in the Osun state, here in Nigeria. The R user group in Osun has received grants from the R consortium and also the Society of Research Software Engineers (SRSE), IESC. We have conducted a few symposiums using the universities in Osun.

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?  

During COVID19 here in Nigeria, we used Telegram and WhatsApp groups to connect with members. Every Sunday at 9 pm WAT, I would host an online session to teach R for 1 hour. We used the Zoom platform for video recordings and teachings. The classes were recorded with Zoom and shared across Telegram and WhatsApp for more engagement. Whatsapp is used to communicate updates. This is still ongoing, and we don’t take money. 

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? 

As the team leader of the Osun User group, I am assisted by four other organizers who can also speak at our meetups/sessions. This means there is a lot of variety in the people who speak. One of my favorite presentations was “Data graphics using the Plotly command.” I am especially interested in the Plotly application for graphics. It can do very good pie charts.

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

The team members are committed and passionate, there is the need for spreading the R programming language. The goal is to teach the R language from secondary schools. It is important to do this as technology is spreading and the need for Data scientists increases. 

R could be introduced early to assist students and help push the R programming language. We want to introduce programming to the Government, so it can be included in the syllabus. The challenge is some high school students do not have laptops for learning.

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?

Some of my group members have worked with newspaper publications. For a symposium, we needed to have some paid publicity. We got it for free and in return, we wanted to do something for the publication; this was where I started to look at how R can be used in journalism. There was data for different sectors, income, and expenditure, for Nigeria alone. I used R to get graphics and percentages to build data analysis. Since then, I don’t think I’ve worked on a data journalism project.

When is your next event? Please give details!

My user group and I have contacted R experts from other African countries in Kenya, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. We’re planning to conduct data science and machine learning workshops using the R language for Africans. More information cannot be given currently since the idea is still in planning. We are looking to send a grant request to the ISC at the R consortium to help fund this idea. This event is slated for January 2022.

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?

My favorite project is The RECON COVID-19 challenge: leveraging the R community to improve COVID-19 analytics resources. It is a vibrant project that talks about covid 19 and how we can leverage R to fix most of the challenges with COVID19.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite?  Why is it your favorite?

Well, I’d say my favorite is the R/Business and the R/medicine. They are directly connected to real-world problems.

We are also thinking of starting a working group ourselves. This is still in the pipeline. We need the opinions of other team members to make a final decision, but currently, it’s not something I can say so much about.