Founders Spotlight:Kagiso Mpa(Founder, Seriti Insights)

Kagiso's journey in data science is one of perseverance, determination, and passion for using data to change the world. From working in corporate to pursuing a self-sponsored post-graduate degree in Cape Town, in this interview, the founder of Seriti Insights takes us through his life as a data science professional and entrepreneur.

In your own words, tell us who Kagiso Mpa is

Kagiso Mpa is a curious creative and problem solver, with a love for tech, travel, art, and music. Kagiso has worked in Botswana and South Africa, amassing a great wealth of experience in Data Analytics and Business Intelligence. With a Statistics background, Kagiso went on to further his studies in Cape Town, where he studied Honors in Data Analytics & Business Intelligence then Masters in Big Data & e-Logistics.

Before we dive in, explain to our readers in simple terms what data science is

Data Science is a combination of Statistics, Computing, and Business. In simple terms, data science is the art of collecting data, critically thinking through data, and telling stories with data, using the most efficient technologies; All these to solve a business or social problem. It goes further to even being able to use data to predict the future, for better decision making and being able to answer questions like why, how, and what if. 

Please briefly take us through your journey to a career in data science?

Since my first degree was in Statistics, I’ve always been in the data science field, as Statistics is the basis of data science. My first job was as an actuarial assistant at Botswana Life and some of my tasks were data science aligned. I went on to work for Alpha Direct as a Data Analyst, and that is where my interest in data science really peaked. I started doing my research on this phenomenon, which was fairly new then, and my interest landed me in Cape Town, where I went on to further my studies. The interesting part is, I was self-sponsoring, that’s how bad I wanted a career in data science. My journey was of unlearning and relearning, and thus I humbled myself and took jobs that were not even paying much just to be hands-on.

Data science is still a very nascent field in Botswana. Was this a concern or motivation when you decided to take it up as a career path?

My passion to do a lot more with data and solve a business/social problem has always been the biggest motivator. I didn't care much that data science is fairly new nor that it is very nascent. When I decided to pack my bags and leave, the focus was not Botswana then, I was looking for something that will catapult me to the world which was already years ahead in terms of applications of big data and analytics. 

Please tell us more about your startup, Seriti Insights

Seriti Insights is an advanced analytics and artificial intelligence firm I'm building with my co-creator Nomsa Makgabenyana. Basically, we help organizations find value in their data for better decision-making. We bring analytics and data together for better insights in order to position enterprises to answer questions like;

  • What can we read from the data?
  • What can we learn from the data to become better?
  • How can we make data value drivers of our business?
  • How can we use data to fundamentally reinvent our business?

What was the motivation for starting Seriti Insights?

The motivation has always been to solve business and social problems through data. Personally, I am also doing it for my creative freedom, I did not get to explore much while I was in corporate, now I have the freedom to experiment and be as creative as I want with my work.

At Seriti Insights, your motto is “Problem-solving through data”. Please elaborate on this

The purpose of Seriti Insights is to create a world where humans and AI(artificial intelligence) work together to solve real-world problems. We wanted to build an analytics company that ensures that Artificial Intelligence empowers people and enterprises to further their potential. And to achieve that, we have to go back to the basis of AI which is DATA.

As a B2B enterprise specializing in relatively new concepts such as Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence, what challenges have you faced?

The biggest challenge is culture; a lot of organizations do not have a data culture, which hinders them from adopting big data strategies. And because the data culture is not instilled, enterprises end up collecting poor-quality data that cannot be mined for better insights. Poor data management principles also affect the integrity and quality of the data. Also, because the concepts are fairly new, most enterprises are still not buying in because they have never seen the value. 

How have you been trying to overcome those challenges?

Our approach right now is “crawl, walk and run”, meaning we start with demystifying data science for enterprises, help them see opportunities in their data, then optimize their uptake of analytical tools. This year we have been on the drive to demystify the concepts through articles on our LinkedIn page - Seriti Insights.

On the other hand, what are some upsides to working on a startup engaged in such a new and niche field?

The satisfaction from knowing that we are offering unique data value solutions that add so much value across business and supply chains. And the fun part about it all is, every industry has data assets that can be explored to develop data-centric products/services or to improve internal operations. Being one of the early data solutions innovators has positioned us well enough over the learning curve, allowing us to be more innovative. 

Big data concepts like AI and machine learning are vital components of the 4th Industrial Revolution which Botswana is trying to partake in. What is your opinion on the rate of their adoption in Botswana both in the private and public sectors?

The problem is culture. We do not encourage and reward innovation, hence we are very comfortable with traditional ways of doing things. The purpose of innovation is to improve efficiency and help us further our potential, these should be the driving factor towards rigorous adoption of new technologies. In addition, it also needs the political will and buy-in from the executive. They need to be interested. Lack of knowledge is another factor delaying adoption. A lot of our leaders believe 4IR can be achieved in one instance, like a plug-and-play device. There needs to be education, especially around the basics of 4IR and the drivers. Basic things like data should be the center of our conversation when talking 4IR. Like I mentioned earlier, we crawl before we run.

Our country is notoriously known for being efficient in theorizing policies but very slow on their actual implementation. What do we stand to lose if we drag our feet in the adoption of big data technologies in our quest for 4IR participation?

Big data is fundamentally one of the core drivers of 4IR, and the conversation has to start with data if we are to engage with 4IR technologies. We stand to be left behind as the rest of the world moves to use these new technologies. Remember these technologies are at the core of successful and sustainable industrial developments. Big data can be used to identify opportunities and risks, improve efficiency in producing and delivering goods and services, and also in solving complex social issues through fact-based decision making. So to enjoy these benefits, we need to have a better understanding of data and the value proposition.

On the other hand, what do you think we stand to gain as a country if we are to adopt big data technologies fast and efficiently enough?

Big data technologies can identify new business models and new industries - which means jobs and income. Big data technologies like IoT and smart farming technologies can also increase production efficiency, leading to food security. These technologies can also help in the design and production of customer-centric services and products because data gives a 360 degrees view of a customer, which means better products for our people both in the public and private sectors. Big data technologies can also help improve public service efficiency and productivity.

We are assuming that policies are one of many ways to speed up big data tech adoption in Botswana. Are there any other ways you can suggest?

First, it has to start with a cultural shift i.e. moving from being afraid of change. We also have to upskill in order to align with innovation and jobs of the future as well as closing the gap between technology and business in our education

What is some of the advice you can give to young people who are interested in a career in data science?

Technology is always changing, the only way to stay relevant is to be interested and to keep learning. The learning never stops. Also, technical skills are important, but domain knowledge on business processes is much more important because you need to be able to know business for you to even think about solving their problems with your technical skills/tools.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, what advice can you give to people looking into founding a tech-centric startup in Botswana?

Start with solving a problem. Another thing is to always sell value; people don't just buy technological products-they buy the results the product will give them. Also, never stop learning and being innovative

Lastly, please share with our readers where you can be reached if they are interested in getting in touch

  • LinkedIn: Kagiso Mpa
  • Email:
NB: Interview has been edited for clarity

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