Kassim Mwitondi: Statement in Support of Election to CODATA Executive Committee

This is the ninth in the series of short statements from candidates in the forthcoming CODATA Elections. Kassim Mwitonid is a new candidate seeking election to the CODATA Executive Committee.  He is nominated by the OCTOPUS Task Group, of which he is a co-chair.

ksm-passport-sizeMy quest to become an ordinary member of the CODATA Executive Committee is motivated by a series of events and personal experiences – particularly in the last couple of decades. For instance, it is now widely acknowledged that global challenges such as climate change, food security and terrorism can only be addressed in globally co-ordinated initiatives. Across the globe, data scientists have woken up to the realities of the need to develop novel analytical frameworks for coping with dynamics of modern day highly voluminous multi-faceted data. However, cohesive strategies for capturing, tracking and modelling such data are still in their infancy. Thus, one of my main motivations in applying for a place on the Committee is to get involved in CODATA’s long-term interdisciplinary initiatives to address global issues through data-driven research in a spatio-temporal context. As the current chair of the OCTOPUS – Task Group embarked upon mining space and terrestrial data for improved human livelihood, I am quite acquainted with ICSU-CODATA-WDS activities. For over fifteen years I have established strong interdisciplinary teaching, research and consulting relationships with colleagues across all continents. By joining the CODATA Executive Committee, I will bring not only a wealth of interdisciplinary skills in dealing with various phenomena affecting human livelihood through data modelling, but also extensive multi-cultural skills necessary for widening CODATA’s scope into new regions.

I have always perceived the Middle East and Africa as the missing link in the core activities of CODATA and WDS and so it is my vision to familiarise young scientists and researchers in those regions with CODATA and WDS core activities via OCTOPUS. It is my hope that such a vision will provide both capacity building and help fulfil CODATA’s initiatives – bridging the global scientific data digital divide and forging new frontiers in Data Science and Technology. I have already established strong working relationships with institutions and funding bodies such as the Qatar National Research Fund through its flagship programme – NPRP and the Wellcome Trust through its recently launched programme – DELTAS Africa. To cater for regional-specific needs, OCTOPUS has now split its research focus into two main streams – modelling of space-terrestrial phenomena and modelling socio-economic and cultural dynamics. One reason for this strategic move has been the fact that consequences of globalisation and urban life constitute a complex system the conceptualisation of which requires equally intricate data solution models. Human activities – physical or non-physical, urban or rural generate large volumes of data that can, using data acquisition and modelling techniques, be harnessed and converted into knowledge. In parts of the word, capturing, interpreting and monitoring dynamic interactions among urban data attributes relating to, say, diseases, socio-economic status, education, gender, crime, life style, diets, migration, urbanisation, globalisation, stress, pollution and many others have greater priority.

I obtained a PhD in Statistical Data Mining from the School of Mathematics of the University of Leeds in 2003 and I also hold an MSc-Informatics from Sofia (1991) and an MSc in Finance from the Strathclyde (1997). I am a member of several professional bodies and I am on editorial boards of several international journals and data repositories. My research interests are in developing enhanced methods for the extraction of knowledge from multi-faceted data related to various phenomena that affect human livelihood which fits in nicely with my vision above. I have published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national and international conferences across the globe. I was one of the first researchers to express interest in ICSU-ROA’s Health and Wellbeing Programme a few years ago with a concept paper on developing centralised adaptive data mining applications to uncover patterns, interactions and dynamics of health issues across the African continent. Between 2008 and 2011 I was part of an international consortium that characterised, documented and archived distributional properties of clay soil chemicals across the African continent.