IBM Announces Global Expansion of Data Science Education

The American multinational tech and consulting company IBM is looking to bridge the gap between Big Data and analytics by expanding its use of Watson and similar Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies in classrooms across the globe.

The world's data continues to grow larger with each passing second of every day. Experts estimate that the per-capita capacity to store data has doubled every 40 months since 1980. Now, roughly 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day, attesting to the growth of Big Data. This growth is largely attributed to the increasing use of mobile devices, remote sensing technology, software logs, video cameras, radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices, and wireless sensor networks.

Big Data itself isn't necessarily a problem, rather the problem lies in analyzing the data so it can be used for practical real-world applications. According to an article published by Forbes, there demand for data analysts is roughly three times greater than the actual supply. IBM is hoping to bridge this gap, however, with the expansion of its Watson natural language analytics platform.

Developed by IBM's DeepQA project and led by principal investigator David Ferrucci, Watson is a learning computer system that's able to answer questions formed in natural language. It received its namesake from the company's first CEO, Thomas J. Watson. Although Watson was originally designed for use on the long-running game show Jeopardy, it has since ventured into other applications, including the classroom.

In case you were wondering, Watson was the declared the winner in its head-to-head battle against former Jeopardy winners Brad Rutler and Ken Jennings.

IBM will deploy Watson throughout participating universities and classrooms throughout the world to help teach students about data analytics. The idea behind the project is that Watson will allow students to learn data anlytics by making otherwise complex tasks simple and beginner-friendly. An estimated 400 universities are currently using NLP technologies in their respective data analytics classrooms, but IBM is looking to increase the use of NLP even further with the deployment of Watson.

Basically, Watson will make it easier for students to learn about data analytics by breaking down the barriers between man and computer. The NLP computer accepts input in the form of natural language, eliminating the need for complex and over-complicated technical jargon when analyzing data.

"Data analysis will be a critical part of every job in the twenty-first century - so we see Watson Analytics, which turns everyone into a data scientist, as the future of analytics," said Dr. Martin Block, professor at Northwestern University. "Pulling from syllabus guides provided through the Watson Analytics Academic Program, we were able to integrate new lesson plans into our course work in less than a week; which has helped us prepare our students to tackle any analytical problem on their own once they enter the workforce."

Universities can apply for IBM's Watson Analytics Academic Program here.

Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov

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