Contributions to My Country through KDI School Education (Ayantola Alayande, 2019 MPP)
- Date 2023-08-23 18:10
- CategoryResearch and Education
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
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
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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