As part of the Ada Lovelace Celebration 2021, organized by Bangladesh Open Source Network (BdOSN), HerWILL led an all-women "datathon", the first of its kind, from January 26 to 28, 2021 this year.
HerWILL - Women Inspired in Life and Leadership, is a US-based women's empowerment social enterprise with the goal of achieving true gender equality by 2030 (UN SDG 5) through education, discussions, advocacy, and innovative technology. With its multi-fold initiatives, HerWILL is working relentlessly to foster cross-cultural knowledge sharing and partnerships to build a one-stop-shop of resources to make women successful.
In the digital world we now live, the importance of data science is well established. We live and breathe data, and generate them infinitely on a daily basis without even thinking about it. Ninety-five percent of the world's problems (from all aspects) will be solved with better data insight. And, datathons have been newly trending where participants use pre-existing datasets collected from researchers working on the subject. The competition usually lasts around 24-72 hours and requires knowledge of different statistical methods and machine learning as well as expertise in programming languages like, R or Python.
This datathon saw the interest of 177 technology students from 21 districts and 27 Technical Universities in Bangladesh. Prior to the main competition, workshops were specifically designed to teach the students the basics of data science.
HerWILL identified the potential and genuine interest in Data Science from the young female minds in Bangladesh and decided to break the geographical barriers to put them in direct contact with the best names in data science from around the world. With the expert leaders from six countries in four continents, participants got a global view of the applications of Data Science and a fair competition with focus on learning. Sixteen renowned academic and industry experts from all around the world were invited to mentor, supervise and judge the contestants. Among the notables was renowned computational biologist, Prof. Dr. Burkhard Rost from Columbia University.
The champion team, Reinforced Noobs, consisted of Fardifa Fathmiul Alam, Reeshoon Sayera, Tahiya Sultana Safa, Tasfia Tabassum, and Nowshin Tabassum from the Islamic University of Technology. Tessera, a team from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology came in as first runners-up and this was made possible by the efforts of Adiba Shaira, Anisha Islam, Muntaka Ibnath and, Priyeta Saha. While another team of four, DU_Hurukka, comprising Adrita Anwar, Malisha Islam Tapotee, Purnata Saha, and Rabeya Akter secured the second runners-up place.
With such a prestigious title under their belts, the winners speak their minds. Reeshoon Sayera thinks, "It is very crucial to learn how to work with a team without any conflicts in order to get successful outcomes." While Anisha Islam adds that she has been able to learn a lot during the 48 hours – an afterthought shared by all the winning ladies who are now more than passionate to pursue data science and are looking forward to similar events in future.
As for what went down during the competition, Malisha Islam Tapotee recounts, "Pre-processing the dataset is one of the main challenges." Data preprocessing is one of the first tasks followed by training the data model by adjusting different parameters before finally, submitting the model when the desired score is achieved.
Reflecting on her experience, HerWILL's Operational Lead, Tanzeem Haque who worked her magic from the ideation to the flawless execution of this event says, "I am honored and blown away by the brilliance of the teams and for the opportunity to mentor them. The girls have every right and reason to be proud of themselves." Her leadership is also a testament to what a singular person can show when empowered by her leaders and supported by the team.
When asked about how the breakthrough in women empowerment has influenced, Farhana Hasan, Founder and CEO of HerWILL shares, "We did a little in teaching Bangladeshi women about unlocking the secret of the universe with data. But these young women taught us a whole lot about the power of passion, persuasion, and performance with limited resources and endless challenges.