Zindi is about using AI to solve real-world problems for companies and individuals. And this is what the South Africa-based crowd solving startup has done for the last three years they’ve been in existence.
Last year a team of data scientists under Zindi used machine learning to improve air quality monitoring in Kampala as another group helped Zimnat, an insurance company in Zimbabwe, predict customer behavior – exclusive Formally who was likely to leave and the possible interference that would make them stay. Zymnet was able to retain its customers by offering custom-made services to people who would otherwise have been put off.
These are some of the solutions that have been realized by companies, NGOs and government institutions to meet the data-centric challenges posed to Zinda.
Zindi announced these challenges and invited its community of data scientists to participate in solution-finding competitions. Participating data scientists submit their solutions and the winner receives a cash prize. The hosts of the competitions get to use the best results to overcome the challenge they have – as in the air quality monitoring project by AirQ, which sought solutions for air pollution forecasting in Uganda, and in its loss to Zimnet helped cut.
“So AirQo now has a dashboard that allows the public to check air quality and air quality forecasts. One of the exciting things about this project is that AirQo has hired two winners from the challenge to help with the implementation of the project.” more Co-Founder and CEO, Selina Lee. South African Megan Yates and Ghanaian Eko Dukar are the other co-founders of the platform.
Regarding the competition, organized in partnership with Digital Air Quality East Africa (DAQ EA), Lee said, “AirQo also raised funding from Google based on the solution they built, and they will now replicate this in other African countries. ” ) project from the University of Birmingham and the AirQo project from Makerere University, Kampala.
Other notable private and public organizations that have tapped Zindagi include Microsoft, IBM and Liquid Telecom (UNICEF) and the government of South Africa.
So far, Zindi is excited about what it has achieved and is excited about the future of the community, noting how the crowd-solving startup has evolved since its launch. The platform is now providing alternatives and increasing competition against traditional consulting firms operating across Africa, which are often costly.
Zindi’s users have tripled since the beginning of last year to reach 33,000 data scientists from 45 countries across the continent. It has also paid out $300,000 in prize money to data scientists.
That number is set to grow as it hosts the third inter-university Umoza Hack Africa Challenge in March next year, where college students will compete against each other for different solutions.
Zindi is using inter-university competition to expose students to practical data science experiences and solve real-life challenges using AI. During last year’s event, the platform attracted nearly 2,000 students during the event which was virtually held due to the pandemic.
“Students get a chance to build their first machine learning model, and from there, it opens up all kinds of doors for their careers and education,” said Lee, originally from San Francisco.
Zindi currently has a job portal to “shorten the path of learning to earning”. The talent placement portal allows organizations to tap from their pool of talent by posting openings.
The crowd-solving platform also plans to introduce a learning component that provides training materials to budding data scientists after it realized a knowledge gap and need for training. In addition, Lee said that most users of Zindi are university students who need a learning experience, and who need advanced skills to solve the world’s problems.
The new plans will be made possible by a recent $1 million seed funding by Secure Platform.
“For us, it’s really about growing the community and creating more value for all of our data scientists,” Lee said.
“So we are going to use the money to introduce a lot of learning material, because one of the things we understand is that, especially in Africa, data science is such a new field. And a lot of our data scientists are still university students or very early in their careers. And they’re just looking for an opportunity to learn and build their skills.”
The seed round was led by San Francisco-based VC firm Shakti, with participation from Launch Africa, Founders Factory Africa and Five35.
All of these plans are geared towards building a strong data science community for Africa and the continent, according to Lee, who said they want their users to reach one million in the near future. This, she said, will be achieved by opening up training opportunities for early career data scientists and creating a strong community that encourages collaboration and mentoring.
Lee said, “And so where we eventually want to reach one million data scientists in Africa – we want to make data science something that anyone interested in pursuing this career will have the tools, connections and Have access to experience. One needs to make a successful career in this field.”
“Our vision is to make AI accessible to all.”