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Eswatini R Users Group Forging Ahead Despite Pandemic Hurdles

By February 28, 2022April 21st, 2022Blog

R Consortium recently caught up with Emmanuel Olamijuwon and Nontsikelelo Shongwe, organizers of the Eswatini R Users Group (Twitter: EswatiniUseR). They discussed how the R user base is growing in Eswatini and how the pandemic has affected them. (Eswatini is located in southeastern Africa, surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.) Although the COVID pandemic really affected their community, the group is gearing up to restore the former status quo before the pandemic hit.

What is the R community like in Eswatini?

The R community in Eswatini is expanding significantly, and we are optimistic it will continue doing so. Apart from tertiary students and the corporate world, there have been calls for adoption and use of Free and Open-Source Software in teaching and learning in Eswatini’s secondary and high school. This is perhaps the reason behind the growth of the R community in the country.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

The COVID pandemic has greatly affected us. We haven’t been able to meet physically because of the restrictions that came with the pandemic. Having virtual meetings has also been impossible due to limited internet connectivity — not everyone has internet access because of the cost — and for those with internet access, the speed is slow. 

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? 

The Internet has always been a challenge that’s why we haven’t been able to use any online platforms, such as GitHub or Zoom. We have only used WhatsApp, but only for the organizers so we could share important communications.

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?

We had Heather Turner do a presentation on diversity and inclusion in R. It was exciting to see what R-Ladies community groups are doing and how we fit in as a community.

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

I am not sure if this is a trend, but I would love to see R incorporated with Python. Not necessarily to see which language is better but in order to get maximum results from the two. 

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?

Currently not really any. However, we heard in the local newspaper of an initiative UN Eswatini was running to educate journalists in the country about data journalism. That’s the only data journalism project we have heard about.

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

Emmanuel: I love the Setting up an R-Girls Schools Network project. It is my favorite probably because I joined the R community through R-Ladies South Africa. I had gone to one of their meetings and one of the organizers advised me to start an R-User group so I started. I love its goal which is to increase representation and participation of girls in R. This happens to be one of the things I would love to see as well.

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

Nontsikelelo: My favorite is R/Pharma. It is my favorite because it focuses on easening decision-making environments and health technology assessment for Health Analysts through utilizing R. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We are still in talks with other organizers when we can have our next meeting.