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Covenant University’s CEPDeR Hosts West Africa's First Summer Institute in Computational Social Sciences

A partner facilitator at the Covenant University Summer Institute in Computational Social Science (SICSS) from the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Fidelia Dake, has reiterated the importance of getting a computational social science summer camp in West Africa, stating that the field of study promises to give a lot of opportunities to interested scholars.

Dr Dake said this during the opening ceremony of the first summer computational social science institute in West Africa, hosted by Covenant University. According to her, there are just a few computational social science institutes on the African continent, with most of them in Southern Africa, which was where most scholars interested in that area of knowledge were able to meet for the first time as organizers.

She said interactions in the past have necessitated the thought of what can be done to bring the study of computational social science to the doorstep of every African scholar. "That is what informed our taking our passion and drive to start a summer institute that is within the West African region, and this happens to be the first in the region," she added.

She said, as organizers, they were proud and happy that their intentional and driving force was finally coming to fruition, despite the challenges encountered along the way. "We learn through challenges, and we are bracing ourselves for whatever we are going to be learning for the next 2 weeks and we know it is going to hold a lot of prospects for all participants," she added.

Dr. Dake was of the view that this will help improve research, as there are very few of them who are really advanced, and there is also a divide based on area of specialization, but the world is moving towards an interdisciplinary approach. When West African scholars and Africans in general sit in their silos and do what we do in our own corners, we cannot solve problems. "We must all come together, and that is what the computational social sciences offer us. The world is changing; big data is now the thing that we are all grappling with. The limitation of our social sciences as we know it; interviewers’ bias is factored in, but with big data, rich data can be harvested from social media platform interaction, mobile device connectivity, and lots more in an unvarnished environment, "she posited.

Declaring the summer programme open, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abiodun H. Adebayo, said he was delighted that this Summer School is uniquely focused on exploring how the application of computational methods to digital data or traditional data sources can help measure African countries' progress towards realizing sustainable development goals.

Professor Adebayo said advances in computing and data science now make it possible to process and analyze big data in real-time with new insights from such data mining can complement official statistics and survey data, adding depth and nuance to information on human behaviours and experiences.

"The application of advances in computational techniques could be adopted to gain real-time insights into people's wellbeing and to target aid interventions to vulnerable groups. Responsible application of new data sources such as satellite data, new technologies, and new analytical approaches can enable more agile, efficient, and evidence-based decision-making," Professor Adebayo opined.

The Chair, Local Organizing Committee, Professor Evans Osabuohien, in his remarks, said over 104 applicants applied for the 20 slots available in the summer programme, signifying the interest in computational social science in the sub-region.

He congratulated the successful applicants, noting that the experience to be garnered from the programme is going to be a life-changing one, as the initiative is one that is tailored to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17, targeted at partnerships for sustainable development.

The Covenant University Summer Institute in Computational Social Science, hosted under the platform of the Centre for Economic Policy and Development Research (CEPDeR), will run from the 19th to the 29th of June, 2022, and will bring together postgraduate students, early-career academics, and researchers. The instructional program for the Institute will involve lectures, group problem sets, and participant-led research projects. There will also be outside speakers who conduct computational social science research in a variety of settings, such as academia, industry, and government.

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