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The Importance of Data Science in Today’s World

The amount of data produced every day is reaching incredible numbers. A recent report in Forbes claims that over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day and that the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) is causing those numbers to accelerate.

Several questions should spring to mind: who is going to manage all this data, how, and to what purpose?
 
City University of Hong Kong’s response has been typically forthright. In July 2018, the university launched the School of Data Science (SDSC) and the Hong Kong Institute for Data Science (HKIDS), heralding a new era in higher education in Hong Kong. “The new School of Data Science aims to become a world-class hub for excellence in this exciting new academic discipline,” said Professor Way Kuo, CityU President. “It is a strategic development to meet the demands of a data-driven economy.”

In fact, CityU is first out of the starting gates because there is no freestanding academic unit such as the School of Data Science in Hong Kong. This makes CityU’s decision to launch the new school a first.

Blazing a trail through data

CityU is well positioned to establish such a school.

“CityU has world-class faculty and a substantial track record in research concerning data science, ranging from STEM, and artificial intelligence to business and social sciences. We possess both the vision and the necessary infrastructure to become a trailblazer for data science in Hong Kong,” said Professor Alex Jen Kwan-yue, Provost.

Training and exposure to the workplace form the areas of focus for SDSC. The new school will serve as a campus-wide educational resource, fostering collaboration and training high-calibre students for data science-related industries. It will comprise an interdisciplinary faculty team of leading academics including existing CityU faculty, joint appointments and new hires.

“The rapid growth in demand for graduates trained in data science has created many exciting opportunities for students, and the new undergraduate degree in SDSC will work to meet industry needs,” said Professor Li Duan, Associate Provost (Strategic Planning) and Chair Professor of Operations Research, who has been appointed as Acting Dean.

Government support

The proposed new data science programmes also align strongly with the government’s vision for developing Hong Kong as a world-class smart city. The good news is that, subject to government and the Legislative Council approval, the new undergraduate degree in data science (that the School will launch in 2019/20 will have over 30 places funded by the University Grants Committee.

CityU’s vision is to start meeting the enhanced demand for well qualified data scientists and experts in related areas.

“We see that demand is growing, and salaries are increasing, too, and there is definitely a need in Hong Kong. Our new focus on data science fills that void, which is good for Hong Kong and presents excellent career prospects for our students,” Professor Li said.

As for HKIDS, this new institute will serve as a hub for joint research, tackling challenging issues in data science, building on the University’s strengths, and bringing together interdisciplinary faculty and students who possess similar research interests.

“HKIDS aspires to be an international focal point of excellence for research initiatives and translational activities in data science, and the region’s leading platform for leaders in the industry and for global experts. We aim to provide both researchers and practitioners with the necessary tools for harnessing the power of big data,” Professor Li said.

Attracting interest from industry

Regional businesses are already showing willing to invest in our data science ventures. The financial technology branch of one of the three largest global e-commerce firms has committed to contributing around HK$12 million to set up a joint lab for strategic collaboration to advance the fusion of data science and financial services, including lending in online marketplaces, securitization and risk management of consumer credit, and personalization of insurance services.

Meanwhile, another HK$4.5 million has been offered by a rapidly rising mainland China unicorn, i.e. a privately held startup valued at over US$1 billion, keen to help commercial companies improve their data analytics to enhance performance, identify trends and assess customer behavior.

“Our faculty possesses the expertise for making a success of these collaborations and growing our reputation in the data science field,” said Professor Li.

In addition, preliminary talks with Microsoft indicate the possibility of future collaborative ventures in terms of developing modules for the new undergraduate degree to be launched next year.

“We aim to attract the best possible students to this programme,” said Professor Jen. “We are confident that innovative, entrepreneurial-minded young people will show interest in data science because of the huge opportunities for career development, both locally, regionally and further afield.

Opportunities galore

The possibilities appear endless. Any area of business, industry, technology and social science that involves data mining, analysis, and ultimately, visualization requires well-trained data specialists.

“We have even been approached by legal experts in mainland China interested in working with us in legal data analytics, i.e. looking at how to manage, mine and interpret legal case history in China,” said Professor Jen. “Our reputation in China’s legal sector is high because of the training programmes we offer for Chinese judges, and now we have opportunities to work with Chinese legal scholars using data science tools.”

At current rates, the production of new data is not going to decrease, and CityU’s decision to launch the school and the institute is good news for students hoping to carve out a career in this exciting new field, and also for industry because demand outstrips supply right now.

“Our strategic drive into data science will have a huge impact locally and regionally, and bring about great benefits to society,” Professor Jen added.

Blaze the trail in data science with City University of Hong Kong!

Learn more about CityU HK!


*This article originally appeared on the CityU HK Website written by Michael Gibb, with minor edits by the Edukasyon.ph team.

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