Data scientists race to tackle air pollution in Uganda

A global competition has launched for data scientists to create a computer process that will accurately predict air quality in Uganda.

Using the Zindi data science competition platform, over 400 data experts from countries including India, Nigeria, Tanzania, Japan, and the UAE are using information collected hourly from sensors in Kampala to accurately forecast air quality for a future 25-hour period.

It’s hoped the ability to accurately predict air quality over short time periods will empower everyone from governments to families to make informed decisions to protect health and guide people’s actions.

The competition is organised by environmental scientists at the University of Birmingham and Makerere University, Kampala, in partnership with Zindi — Africa’s largest data science competition platform focused on solving the continent’s most pressing problems.

The AirQo Ugandan Air Quality Forecast Challenge runs until May 31 on Zindi and anyone can compete for a share of a $5,000 prize fund, with the winner’s solution being put into practice in Uganda. There is still time for data scientists to enter the competition.

The winner’s solution will be used to help the country’s environment experts make policy and planning decisions.

Kampala, Uganda.

Professor Francis Pope, ASAP East Africa project lead, from the University of Birmingham, said: ‘One of the main indicators of air quality is PM2.5. Generated by traffic, industry and burning fossil fuels, these particles are invisible to the naked eye, but can cause major health problems.

‘We hope that one of our competitors will devise a forecasting solution that can be put into practice — allowing people in Uganda to make decisions about their day-to-day lives based on reliable forecasts of the threat to health from air pollution.

Paul Green, AirQo Technical Project Manager, Makerere University added: ‘Competitors could see their solution significantly improve quality of life for people in Uganda. With accurate forecasting, for example, if we know that the next day will see high levels of air pollution then sports or other events can be rescheduled or relocated.

‘The solution could be life-saving. Sensitive groups such as children, the elderly, sick or those with respiratory illnesses may need to remain inside. Schools can plan the timing of outdoor activities such as field trips or sports events with confidence.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay


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