Original Research: Technology in Academics

An overview of big data and data science education at South African universities

Eduan Kotzé
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 35, No 1 | a1387 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v35i1.1387 | © 2016 Eduan Kotzé | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 April 2016 | Published: 03 November 2016

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Eduan Kotzé, Department of Computer Science and Informatics, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Man and machine are generating data electronically at an astronomical speed and in such a way that society is experiencing cognitive challenges to analyse this data meaningfully. Big data firms, such as Google and Facebook, identified this problem several years ago and are continuously developing new technologies or improving existing technologies in order to facilitate the cognitive analysis process of these large data sets. The purpose of this article is to contribute to our theoretical understanding of the role that big data might play in creating new training opportunities for South African universities. The article investigates emerging literature on the characteristics and main components of big data, together with the Hadoop application stack as an example of big data technology. Due to the rapid development of big data technology, a paradigm shift of human resources is required to analyse these data sets; therefore, this study examines the state of big data teaching at South African universities. This article also provides an overview of possible big data sources for South African universities, as well as relevant big data skills that data scientists need. The study also investigates existing academic programs in South Africa, where the focus is on teaching advanced database systems. The study found that big data and data science topics are introduced to students on a postgraduate level, but that the scope is very limited. This article contributes by proposing important theoretical topics that could be introduced as part of the existing academic programs. More research is required, however, to expand these programs in order to meet the growing demand for data scientists with big data skills.


datawetenskap; grootdata; hoër onderwys; grootdataonderrig; datawetenskaponderrig


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