Bridging The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Gaps With AISaturdays

— Our Journey so far

“A Candle Loses Nothing by Lighting Another Candle.”-Italian Proverb

AI Saturdays (AI6) is a free-to-attend, community-driven, non-profit and global movement organized in 50+ cities across the globe, including Bangalore, Lagos, Toronto, Singapore and Sunnyvale with the mission to make Artificial Intelligence education at the quality and rigour of the world’s best universities accessible to anyone through structured study groups.

These study groups are held in cohorts for 14–16 weeks every Saturday, with structured materials and sessions targeted for people at skill of all levels.


AI Saturdays Lagos— The beginning

With the burning desire and passion to equip ourselves and others with Artificial Intelligence skills, the mission and vision of global AI6 resonated with Azeez Oluwafemi and I the moment it was announced. We were quick to kick-start AI6 in our local community, Lagos, Nigeria on January 6th 2018.

We organized and facilitated 16 weeks of study group from January till April and then from August till November. As ambassadors, we played a pivotal role in empowering the AI community in our city to get updated with the latest methods in artificial intelligence, and be able to implement the most cutting-edge AI models out there.

For our first cycle, we walked our participants through Computer Vision from Stanford CS231n and Fast AI deep learning for coders. We garnered extremely enthusiastic participants who dedicated their time and effort into learning, teaching and sharing. Our participants built different group projects and personal projects ranging from exploring different deep learning frameworks to building a classifier for Nigerian Currency Notes and building an artistic style transfer model.

The first cycle ended with a bang!


First Lagos AI Hackathon

After the first cycle, we co-organized a 2 day computer vision hackathon with Lagos Women in Machine Learning and Data science. This hackathon was sponsored by Intel and it held on 7th and 8th of April 2018 with a total of 50 participants, 6 females and 44 males.

The theme of the hack was focused on deep learning and the challenge was to classify food image data. We chose food because AI6 Lagos is currently working on a project called #ChowNet.


Bi-Monthly AI Saturdays

While awaiting the next global cohort set to resume in August, we ran a bi-monthly cohort from May till June 2018 where we went through Stanford CS20 Introduction to TensorFlow and Introduction to PyTorch.


Second Lagos AI Hackathon

In July, we co-organized a second edition of Lagos AI hackathon with Women in Machine Learning and Data Science (WiMLDS) and InstaDeep, an African AI company. This hackathon was supported by Facebook & Africa’s talking and it held on 21st July, 2018 with a team of 3–4 and 10 groups in total.

The task was to build a model that predicts the hourly taxi ride demand in New York City based on Population Census Blocks. We had a baseline that served as an extra incentive, to be beaten. The competition started at 10.40 am and ended at 6pm with a one hour break in between for food and drinks.

The winning team, AI6Lagos students got an internship opportunity at InstaDeep while the first runner-up team and second runner-up team got Google Home devices and a Bluetooth hands-free respectively.

This hackathon imbued Karim Beguir, InstaDeep’s CEO with more optimism that indeed, Africa has the talents needed to build cutting-edge AI models.

winning team — InstaDeepers _^_

AI Saturdays Lagos — Second Cohort

In August, AI6’s registration for the second cohort rolled out. We kick-started our second cohort on August 11th 2018 and ran 2 different classes for beginners and Intermediate students.

For the beginners’ class, we dived deep into Machine Learning using Coursera Machine Learning course by Andrew Ng. We walked through the theories and programming assignments with a followed up group projects on MNIST and Fashion MNIST. All resources and programming assignments are documented on our Github repository for individual or community use.

For the intermediate track, we had remote instructors walk us through different aspects of Artificial Intelligence. We had the following leading AI Practitioners/Researchers join us remotely and in person to take a session on any topic of their interest.

  1. Co-founder of Black-in-ai and Research Scientist at Google AI, Dr. Timnit Gebru was our first remote speaker and she gave a session on Vision and Ethics using her research project with Joy Buolamwini on Gender Shades.
  2. Professor of Machine Learning, Prof. Neil Lawrence remotely gave a tutorial on Probabilistic Machine Learning
  3. Director of School of AI, Siraj Raval hung out with us remotely to answer 21 questions we had for him. Check it out.
  4. Lecturer at Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, Dr. Dina Machuve gave a remote tutorial session on Bio-Informatics: A Datascience Perspective
  5. Google Dev Expert in Machine Learning, Robert John gave a session on Tensorflow Estimator API
  6. Emeritus Professor of computer science at Oregon State University, Prof. Tom Dietterich gave a remote session on Anomaly Detection: Building Robust Machine Learning Algorithms
  7. Principal Data scientist at Arm, Dr. Damon Civin gave a remote session on Deploying ML Models in the Wild
  8. Co-founder of Black-in-ai and PhD candidate at Cornell, Rediet Abebe gave a remote session on Using Search Queries to Understand Health Information Needs in Africa.
  9. Co-founder of conversational AI company — Rasa, Dr. Alan Nichol gave a remote session on How to Build Conversational “Level 3” AI Bot
  10. AI Resident at Google AI and Founder of Delta Analytics, Sara Hooker gave a remote session on Beyond Accuracy
  11. Data Scientist (Executive) Ernst & Young, Allen Akinkunle gave a remote session on Survival Analysis
  12. AI Saturdays Lead (Lagos & Kigali) and CMU Africa Masters Student, Femi Azeez gave a remote session on Applying to CMU Africa
  13. Co-Founder DeepQuestAI, John Olafenwa gave a session on Convolutional Neural Networks
  14. Machine Learning Engineer, Lekan Wahab gave a session on Debugging Classifiers
  15. Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Public Health, Prof. Elaine Nsoesie gave a session on Data Visualization
Our Heroes :) Thank you.

HackExpo — Into the future

In November, we co-organized HackExpo2018 with DeepQuest AI, an AI Startup on a mission to advance and democratize Artificial Intelligence and make it accessible.

HackExpo was a 2-days event, a Hackathon and Exposition sponsored by Intel, Facebook and InstaDeep with about 150 attendees across both days. The Exposition was a demonstration of cutting-edge technology in the field of Artificial Intelligence and a series of intelligent discussions.

AI6Lagos members accounted for over 75% of the exposition attendees and over 90% of the hackathon participants. The main hackathon was preceded with a kaggle competition on Fashion MNIST dataset.

The challenge was on road traffic congestion and accidents which stemmed from the prevalence of traffic congestion on our Lagos roads and traffic issues as a larger pandemic in Nigeria as a whole. The participants were presented with 4000 traffic images datasets to be classified into four categories — Sparse Traffic, Dense Traffic, Accident and Vehicle on Fire.

A benchmark score was set to be a threshold but the first submission rendered it a relic. By the end of the competition, the benchmark score was only better than one group’s submission.

The members of the top 3 winning teams comprised mostly of AI6 Lagos students and this goes a long way to show the effort and dedication they’ve put into honing their skills since the start of the cohorts. A well-deserved victory.


ChowNet

In our effort to contribute to the data collection process in Africa, we started a community project called ChowNet which was inspired by ImageNet dataset. The motivation for ChowNet is to build an image repository for African Local food starting with Nigeria. I remotely presented this project as a poster at black-in-ai 2018 workshop which was co-located with NeurIPS at Palais des Congrès de Montréal on December 7th 2018.

link

Conclusion

It’s been an amazing journey co-running AI6Lagos with amazing colleagues and friends. We’ve put a lot of effort into our work because we believe that we could truly democratize Artificial Intelligence education by creating a community which helps enable studying, researching and building AI products for our ecosystem and beyond. With the help of the community and a lot of personal effort and hard-work, our members have gone on to secure their dream job, won several hackathons, switched to AI-related careers, ran AI hubs, inspired other AI6 communities across the country and even kick-started AI6 in other cities in Nigeria.

Over the two cycles, we have had over 150 participants and being in the forefront of the Artificial Intelligence movement in Nigeria, we have gathered quite a huge number of AI enthusiasts with over 1.2k members on Meetup, 1.6k followers on Twitter and experts in the field at home and abroad. AI6 Lagos is fast becoming a reference point in the Nigerian tech-space as far as Artificial Intelligence and Data Science is concerned.

The AI ecosystem in Nigeria is growing so fast with communities like ours and organizations like DataScience Nigeria, a registered US charity/Nigerian non-profit which runs an end-to-end AI knowledge and application ecosystem that has gained international mentions taking the lead and doing fantastic job showcasing AI talents in Nigeria to the whole world.

More AI6 sisters communities have sprung up across the country. We have a vibrant and active AI6 community in the state capital Abuja where we have over 30 members who have gone on to start working on interesting projects like sound detection for security, parking lot management system using number plate detection, research on skin infection classification etc. We also have active AI6 communities in other parts of Nigeria like Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Abeokuta, and Jos.

With companies like InstaDeep, a Pan-Africa leading AI Startups with offices in London, Paris, Kenya, Tunisia and now, Nigeria investing heavily in AI talents in Africa, the work that we do at AI6 cannot be over-emphasized.

Concluding with the words of Prof. Moustapha Cisse in his recent article titled “Look to Africa to Advance Artificial Intelligence” , AI is profoundly changing societies and its revolution offers a chance to improve life without opening up or exacerbating inequalities but this will require widening out the location in which AI is done and in order to do this we need a Pan-African Strategy: a set of ambitious goals for AI Education, Research and Development and Industrialization.

We are extremely excited about the future of AI in Nigeria and the role we play in making AI Education a reality for all.


Sponsors and Partners’

AI6Lagos couldn’t have happened without our proud sponsors and partners to whom we are immensely grateful.

  • Intel is a multinational and technology company. Intel’s vision for AI, specifically DL, in 2019 and 2020 involves ushering it out of the early experimental age and onto just about every physical object in the world. Intel wants its hardware in the hands of researchers, built into gadgets and wearables, and powering corporate and developer needs. Intel has been our biggest sponsor since we started AI6 Lagos and we’re very grateful. Thanks to the amazing Allela Roy, Wendy Boswell and colleagues for their continuous support.
  • Facebook Dev Circle is a community of developers that connects other local developers to collaborate, learn, and code. We were able to secure sponsorship from fb , thanks to Innocent Amadi, Lagos FB DevC community lead.
  • Vesper Ng is a platform that uses Machine Learning to recommend affordable housing to people. Vesper sponsored our internet throughout the cohorts and are one of our oldest sponsors. Thank you Dolapo Omidire.
  • Google is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. Google believes AI will meaningfully improve people’s lives and that the biggest impact will come when everyone can access — we couldn’t agree more. We were able to secure sponsorship for our second cohort from Google Developers, thanks to Aniedi Udo-Obong.
  • Univelcity is a tech academy designed to accelerate the growth of tech talent in Africa by offering accelerated and immersive courses. We partner with univelcity from time to time to hold our classes. Thanks to Joseph Agunbiade who never hesitated for once to have us in his building at a ridiculously subsidized rate.
  • Brainiacs is an end to end technology solution provider. They provide services in training and enhancement for children and young adults (creativity pack), application and systems development and support institutions in research and analytics. We partnered with Brainiacs to hold our bi-monthly cohorts in their office space at no cost. Thanks Mr Musa Muhammad and team.
  • Cisco is the worldwide leader in IT and networking. They help companies of all sizes transform how people connect, communicate, and collaborate. Thanks to Aisha Bello, we were able to hold part of our classes for the second cohort in Cisco Nigeria’s office for free.

We couldn’t have had such an amazing experience running this community without each and every person who’s helped us in one way or the other — to whom, we are very grateful. We are looking forward to partnering with more organizations/communities in the nearest future.

One of our major challenges so far has been getting a stable venue to hold our classes, since we hold these classes for 16 consecutive Saturdays, it becomes rather daunting to get any one venue without some form of payment. Securing sponsorship in this area would be highly appreciated.

If you would like to partner or sponsor us, please send an email to tejaf05@gmail.com


What‘s up for 2019?

1. ChowNet: Exciting news for 2019 is that InstaDeep will be sponsoring our project. This sponsorship will go a long way into helping us build better incentive scheme into our data collection app and allow us to move faster in implementation. Our goal which is to collect about 200–500 images (per class) of local African dishes in different part of Africa.

2. Website: Our new and improved website is still in the works. Our team of volunteers are working tirelessly to make sure our chapter has an online presence. We can’t wait to share all that we do with the world.

3. In — Class Competitions: According to the feedback we received from participants of the concluded cohorts, one area that we need to put in more effort is in competitions. We have acceded their requests and will be introducing in-class competitions in the next cohort. The idea is to have a competition that will be on Kaggle run throughout the cohort. The problems will generally be tailored towards materials introduced in classes but there would be various competitions requiring skills not yet taught in class. We believe this will help participants anticipate and try out stuffs ahead of the class and then eventually learn how to better handle it once taught.

4. Poster Presentations: Part of our goal at AI6 is to foster environment where critical thinking and ground-breaking research can happen. We will be having poster presentation at the end of each cohorts by members who have been working on any form of research and possibly connect them with experts in their field of interest. IndabaXNigeria is happening in March 2019 and this form of class exercise could help our members prepare for conferences like such.

5. Personal and Group Projects: We intend to continue with our model of having group projects mid-cohort however, we will also encourage personal projects from our members.

6. Classes: For this next cycle, we plan to hold two separate classes for beginners/Machine Learning students and Intermediate/Deep Learning students. Intermediate Students with mature exposure would be encouraged to start implementing research papers with any framework of their choice. With each person discussing what they are working on through presentations to other students.


Registration for the 3rd cohort is currently ongoing — we’re looking forward to having you.

Please Note: Every participant is required to register for the cohort and registration will remain open for the first 5weeks of the cohort. Registered members who attend 60% of classes and complete all projects will be awarded certificates of participation at the end of the cohort.

❤ ❤Many thanks to ‘Tayo Jabar, Olalekan Olapeju, George Igwegbe, Adetunji Adetola, Orevaoghene Ahia, Simon Ubi, Lawrence Francis and Stanley Obumneme Dukor for taking a big chunk of their time and energy to run this community with Femi and I ❤ ❤