November 10, 2021

Inside DataFest Kampala 2021

Inside DataFest Kampala 2021

Earlier this year, Event Fund grantee Pollicy reported back from their second hugely successful DataFest Kampala event. Uri Ludger and Arthur Kakande shared the proceedings of the two-day event which took place in May 2021 and included a wide range of activities including keynote talks by Milly Isingoma of the Uganda Revenue Authority and Neema Iyer of Pollicy; lightning talks by actors in  data science worlds on the African continent; and a panel discussion that tackled pressing issues ranging from the application of data in health care and the pandemic, journalism, as well as ethical considerations and public trust in data use by the state. The event also included a data hackathon, a movie screening of The 'Price is Wrong' mockumentary, and a cocktail and networking event!

This article, reposted below, was first published on May 31, 2021 on Pollicy.

Inside the second DataFest Kampala

We had to take a year-long hiatus as a result of the pandemic in 2020, so you can understand our excitement in putting together this year’s edition of Data Fest! It was a smashing success, and here’s everything that you need to know about what went down during the 2021 DataFestKampala event that happened on 29 and 30 April 2021.

For the first time ever, we held DataFest Kampala as a hybrid event; in the spirit of adhering to COVID-19 prevention guidelines by keeping physical attendee numbers low and allowing people to participate virtually through Zoom. We also cast a wider net in terms of locations for this year; we were active at a total of 6 locations during the course of the two-day event, with the primary location being MoTIV in Bugolobi, and satellite locations including the SafeBoda Academy in Kyebando, Laboremus offices in Bugolobi, and RAN Africa offices in Kololo.

The turnout was amazing and almost overwhelming! We had more than 120 people show up at MoTIV and other locations, while more than 300 of you participated virtually.

The theme of the event was “Living with Data” and the focus was on examining the role data plays in every aspect of our daily lives. Unmissable interaction with data in our day-to-day means that the importance of learning how to leverage that interaction for a better human experience cannot be overstated. From the private sector to public governmental organizations, from entertainment to healthcare, data holds the answers to how to make our lives better.

We kicked off with a plenary address from Neema Iyer, the Executive Director of Pollicy, the organizers of DataFest, highlighting the work of Pollicy in the areas of data and tech, specifically data feminism, skills development by training and mentoring young people into the data science space. She recommended that such topics take center stage in the conversation.

We then had a number of lightning talks from speakers such as Charity Mugasha from the Digital Human Rights Lab, Trinitas Ada from Code for Africa, Marrian Haileselassie from Andariya, and Ronald Oyam from Open street map Uganda who discussed the importance of data in human rights and what it means to have human rights both online and offline, data use in journalism and the importance of technology in media, the dangers of using bad data and the role of open data.

Ms. Milly Nalukwago Isingoma, Assistant Commissioner Research, Planning, and Development at Uganda Revenue Authority also joined in to give the Keynote address during which she emphasized the main areas of our everyday lives that are influenced by data. She went on to say that data is everything in life and everywhere you go. The power of data comes from transforming it into powerful insights and information that can be used to make better decisions.

Milly also highlighted the key roles of data in solving societal problems urging that it is a golden key that opens the door to effective decision-making. She also discussed data protection, safety, and storage further stating that “With COVID-19, we are not sure which country will survive and which one will not. For the ones surviving, they need to make decisions, and you cannot make an effective decision without data.”

Milly concluded her keynote by urging young people to pursue data science in order to contribute to the country’s economic independence, referencing URA’s 600 job vacancies that are searching for people who can convert data into dashboards, emphasizing how there are opportunities out there for young data professionals to seize.

We then held a panel discussion moderated by Shem Opolot and Brendalyn Kirungi to explore our theme further. This panel had speakers such as Edrine Wanyama from CIPESA, Esther Ndagire from Code for Africa, Vincent Arumadri from UCU, Louis Kamulegeya from Rocket Health, and Anthony Ssebagereka from Makerere University. The discussion covered a wide variety of pressing issues, ranging from the application of data in areas such as health care and the pandemic, journalism, as well as ethical considerations and public trust in data use by the state.

We later had a diverse selection of breakaway sessions for participants to choose from which comprised a combination of patriarchal hands-on sessions and panel discussions. The practical sessions included a data visualization session by Shem Opolot from Aira Analytics and an introductory session on building machine learning models (using random forest algorithm) from Moses Bomera from Emata/Laboremous Uganda. The panel discussions comprised of creatives showcasing their work during the Data & Art Creative Hustle Session, a discussion on data science opportunities in a session by Refactory, and a session by the team from DefendDefenders that broached the niche subject of artificial intelligence and human rights advocacy.

We closed off the day with a movie screening of our mockumentary that discusses cybersecurity through a lens of comedy and realism called “Price is wrong” and a panel discussion with the mockumentary producers (Peter Nuwagaba, Ntale Bahana and Legham Kenogo) and Edna Ninsiima.

With a vision of spreading out DataFest as wide as possible over Kampala, we dedicated Day 2 to side events during which we had our various partners host their sessions at remote locations away from the main venue. We had a total of 9 side sessions which included a session on fueling Next Gen Fintechs and also explored the role of government data at the Laboremus Offices in Bugolobi, a session on data use in decision making along with an introductory session on using MetaBase at SafeBoda Academy in Kyebando, a session on using data to assess government service delivery by SEMA at the Innovation Village, and a pitch session that saw various participants pitch their innovative ideas at the Resilient Africa Network (RAN) in Kololo. Among others, we had InfoNile showcasing their work along with hands-on training on data visualization with DataWrapper, Rogers Twesigye from Radiyo Music Group showcasing their platform and sessions from the various members of the digital human rights lab on digital security, data collection, using ICT for Advocacy, and other areas.

During this 2 day event, we partnered with Zindi Africa and AirQo to run a data hackathon that tasked participants with developing a model that can take low-cost device data and other supplementary data and transform it as accurately as possible to the reference value. The end goal was to improve the accuracy of low-cost air quality monitors built by AirqQo in order to provide accurate insights to citizens and governments alike.

The top 3 winners from various countries were awarded cash prizes and these were;
First Place — ASSASSIN — Azer Ksouri; Prize: $125
Second Place — Patrickpato — Patrick Ning’i; Prize: $75
Third Place- Team Generation of Miracles (_herolevel — Abdulqadri Afolabi and Mohjay — Jamiu Afolabi); Prize: $50

This was later expanded to a wider community and was extended to 6th June and with another cash prize worth $1000 shared among the top three winners who would better solutions than those by the 3 winners above.

We closed DataFest on the evening of Day 2 with a cocktail event that allowed for participants and speakers alike to meet and network, accompanied by some fireside chats and performances, and music.

Find details on the funders, supporters and partners that brought this event to life at

Written by Uri Ludger (Communications Fellow) and Arthur Kakande (Data Products Lead) at Pollicy.