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Contributions to My Country through KDI School Education (Ayantola Alayande, 2019 MPP)

  • Date 2023-08-23 18:10
  • CategoryResearch and Education
  • Hit498

1st Winner

Category 2) Contributions to Your Home Country

Subject C) Contributions to My Country through KDI School Education

(Summary) My essay summarises my professional journey since graduating from KDI School in 2020. Essentially, I reflect on the different professional avenues through which I have made impact, in my country, Nigeria and Africa at large — thanks to my KDI School education. I focus on 4 major professional platforms I have worked since leaving KDI School: Dataphyte, the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, and most recently, the Research ICT Africa. I also reflect on other relevant opportunities that my KDI School education has brought me along the line.

I  came  to  the  KDI  School  in  2019  from  a  purely  humanities background,  having  only  had  a  bachelor’s  degree  in  Classical studies.  The  1  year  I  spent  at  the  School  however  turned  things around  quickly:  I  was  immersed  into  a  new  world  of  economic policy analysis and quantitative skills. Much of that has brought me to  where  I  am  today,  as  I  have  utilised  both  the  thematic knowledge  and  the  technical  skills  gained  from  the  school  to rapidly  advance  my  professional  career  while  making  impacts  in the policy world. 

Specifically,  taking  courses  in  Quantitative  Methods,  STATA,  &  R prepared me for a new analytical journey whose level of impact I did  not  envisage.  My  SRP,  which  was  awarded  outstanding,  also prepared me for work on African elections. 

When  I  left  the  KDI  School  in  2020,  I  had  amassed  a  bit  of quantitative skills, which I immediately began to put to use for my home  country,  Nigeria’s  policy  space.  I  began  as  a  consultant  at Dataphyte, a media research and data analysis organisation using data for socioeconomic analysis in Nigeria. Over the past 2 years at Dataphyte,  I  have  conducted  extensive  research  on  elections, democracy   and   social   media,   digital   technology,   and   data governance  in  Nigeria  and  Africa  at  large  —  including  a  recent policy report on US-China tech competition in Africa (see appendix for link to a compilation of all my work). I have also trained several Dataphyte  staff  on  policy  analysis,  in  addition  to  facilitating research partnerships for the organisation (e.g., with the University of Edinburgh). I am also currently co-building the organisation’s AI product, NubiaAI, an AI-powered news insights platform for African newsrooms.  All  of  this  was  possible  due  to  my  exposure  to  data and   rigour   in   research   at   the   KDI   School.   Not   only   that, immediately after KDI School,  I got a scholarship to study for my MSc  in  Africa  and  International  Development  at  the  University  of Edinburgh.  The  academic  training,  I  had  received  at  KDI  School gave me a leverage, as I graduated with a distinction, and received awards for the best performance  and the Best Dissertation in my class.  Noteworthily,  my  previous  experience  organising the  first ever  TEDx  KDISchool  was  quickly  recognised  at  Edinburgh,  and  I provided  technical  support  in  helping  to  organise  the  2022  TEDx UofE. My experience was also recognised by another university in Scotland,  and  I  helped  the  organisers  secure  the  license  for  the first ever TEDxUniversityofStirling event. 

A) DATAPHYTE WORK

Research work: 

Link to all my research pieces at Dataphyte: https://www.dataphyte.com/author/ayantola-alayande/

This impact continues to expand, as I stayed back in the UK after my programme  at Edinburgh.  I worked for a while at Kantar UK’s Africa Insight Division as a Research Executive (Quantitative/Client Servicing).  Interestingly,  working  with  numbers  and  data  was something  unimaginable  for  me  before  I  went  to  KDI  School  2.5 years prior. However, my love for the policy world — especially in the  areas  of  digitalisation  and  digital  data  —  quickly  made  me dissatisfied with private sector work. Soon, I left Kantar to work at The  Bennett  Institute  for  Public  Policy  at  the  University  of Cambridge.  At Bennett,  I research  digitalisation  and  public  sector productivity  in  the  UK  and  globally.  Due  to  my  penchant  for analytical work (although I’m still improving on my quants skills), I took on many interesting projects, including leading the evaluation of the first ever public sector trial of a Four-day work week with the South  Cambridgeshire  District  Council;  an  ongoing  work  on Generative AI in low-resourced contexts, and an investigation into the cause of low fixed capital investments in the UK. I have made several brown bag and seminar presentations on these topics. 

B) BENNETT INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY WORK

Link to my work: https://www.bennettinstitute.cam.ac.uk/about-us/person/ayantola-alayande

My analytical skills continue to gain recognition within and outside of  my  home  country  Nigeria,  as  well  as  within  and  outside  my current  country  of  residence,  the  UK.  Since  2021,  I  have  been  a consultant with the Centre for Journalism and Development (CJID) West Africa, offering policy training on climate change reporting. In July,  I  will  be  speaking  on  generative  AI  in  African  newsrooms at the organisation’s West Africa Journalism Innovation Conference in Abuja Nigeria. 

Recently, I have ventured into the world of digital technology and society, especially the topic  of Generative AI in African countries. This  has  led  to  a  new  research  fellowship/consultancy  with  the Research ICT Africa (RIA), where I am researching Generative AI for development in Low- and Middle-Income countries. In June 2023, I was invited to Kigali for a roundtable by the organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to design an approach for social impact assessment of generative AI use in Africa. 

The  social  impact  I  continue  to  make  through  my  professional pursuits are numerous (space does not permit me to document all here)— all of which I would never have dreamt of, let alone achieve without  my  KDI  School  education,  which  was  content  rich, impactful, and transformational for my skillset.

C) RESEARCH ICT AFRICA WORK

Links: https://researchictafrica.net/2023/06/27/generating-buzz-how-can-local-newsrooms-in-africa-use-generative-ai-to-stay-ahead-of-the-curve/, https://www.bennettinstitute.cam.ac.uk/blog/ai-in-low-resourced-contexts/


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