Portrait photo of Jeffrey Larbi-Akor

PEOPLE AND STORIES

Jeffrey Larbi-Akor: Data For All

In Ghana, DSAA trains young IT talents, who then put their newly acquired know-how to use in their communities

Training opportunities in the IT sector were often in short supply in Ghana. When Jeffrey Larbi-Akor discovered his passion for data science, he felt he was on his own at first. But thanks to the training offered by Digital Skills Accelerator Africa (DSAA), he now works as a data scientist and applies his enthusiasm for data analysis in small enterprises, associations and even in churches in his community.

Like all true analysts, Jeffrey Larbi-Akor starts by analysing the problem: ‘There's a myriad of challenges in Ghana: Basically, there was a lack of education for young talents in the IT space for years. And in terms of the companies available, there are very few companies available and slow internet access.’ The 27-year-old knows what he’s talking about. Like many young people in Ghana, he’s motivated and tech savvy, but with training programmes hard to come by, there was no way for him to develop his potential.

After finishing school, Jeffrey initially had many interests and plans for the future. He wanted to become a doctor, then an architect, but in the end opted to study biology. In the past, he mostly used computers to play games and surf the internet. During his studies, he used IT applications for the first time for research projects – using data to create, visualise and present statistics. While program languages and statistics programs – although necessary – were not popular among most of his fellow students, Jeffrey was inspired. So much so that he wanted to get more actively involved in data science than in biology:

‘And so I decided to stop working in the scientific laboratory and to have the computer as my new laboratory.’

Jeffrey Larbi-Akor

Training at DSAA

However, few companies were either able or willing to train him. The few offers required a lot of prior knowledge, which he – as a newcomer to the sector – didn’t have. He therefore tried to teach himself IT, but this quickly proved more frustrating than motivating. Jeffrey was about to give up when he came across the services of DSAA, a non-profit association of companies in the digital services sector. DSAA is supported by Invest for Jobs. DSAA’s member companies have the common goal of inspiring, training and employing talented people in Africa in the IT sector. Through DSAA, Jeffrey had the chance to undertake on-the-job training at the start-up getINNOtized in Accra, one of the founders of DSAA. There, he was able to immerse himself in the subject. With the support of IT professionals, he got to grips with the individual specialist areas, such as programming, data science and machine learning, from the ground up. He views the network he established there as an unexpected bonus: ‘I have grown a solid network from meeting people I had no idea existed, so that I can easily count on them to help me and basically build good friendships for my future career.’

From a passion to a vocation

Provided with new expertise and confidence, Jeffrey was taken on by getINNOtized after he finished his training, and he now works as a data scientist for Pether Ghana Ltd. The company offers software solutions for the health sector – and Jeffrey’s biology course comes in handy here. At Pether, he is responsible for data science, data visualisation and data engineering. ‘So basically anything that’s to do with data,’ he explains. But apart from his new job, he also has a new vision. He has started his own business as a consultant, making IT and data applications accessible to organisations that would otherwise have limited contact with statistics programs, for example small enterprises, associations and churches.

‘You would be surprised that everybody actually needs IT.’

Jeffrey Larbi-Akor

According to Jeffrey, even small organisations can benefit from data analysis and IT solutions. For example, he has developed IT tools for a bakery and a pharmacy that enable the respective companies to organise enquiries, optimise delivery routes and, at the end of the year, to analyse which products have generated the most sales. For his own church community, Jeffrey is currently developing a digital tool that helps members organise their appointments and the readings covered in a bible study group. His goal is to show people how important data analysis is and how much they can learn from data. Through DSAA, Jeffrey was able to gain a foothold in the IT sector and transform a passion for data into his profession.

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