Canadian Data Analytics and Big Data
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Canadian Data Analytics and Big Data

“Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” – Peter Sondergaard, Gartner Research

In a world that’s quickly becoming all-digital, it can seem like things have become increasingly complex. Today, even the most difficult questions can be answered by the simple click on the mouse or smartphone button. Have a query about history? Easy. Just Google it. Need directions to an obscure hole-in-the-wall eatery? Your GPS will know the way. New to a city? Not a problem, here are the top 10 must-see places according to locals. And with the knowledge of the world pretty much available at our fingertips, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the rapid pace of society’s progression.

Big data, for example, and the concept of big data analytics, are terms that often set prospective students quaking in their boots. But in line with the global technology boom, it encapsulates the world of today, an evaluative method that has seeped into contemporary life – it’s big, it’s insightful, it’s everywhere, and it’s more or less integral to the high-tech way we live.

“Big data commonly refers to extremely large and complex data sets,” says Professor Douglas Woolford, Associate Professor of Environmetrics at Western University. “Big data is characterized by large volumes of data in a variety of formats being collected at a high rate,” he explains. “For example, think of apps or websites that are tracking all sorts of information on users.


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“Data analytics is the process of inspecting, cleaning, managing, transforming, visualizing and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, suggesting conclusions and supporting decision making,” he adds.

Founded in 1878, Western University is recognized for engaging with the world’s best and brightest, challenging them to meet ever-higher standards in the classroom and beyond. The Faculty of Science at this esteemed institution boasts acclaimed researchers in mathematics, computer science, and statistics, who together comprise its Science of Information research theme. In areas such as financial mathematics, machine learning, and envirometrics, Western Science experts are leading the way in developing new techniques for turning big data into knowledge”.

“Big data is big business in Canada,” Professor Woolford continues. “In all fields, the generation, management and analysis of digital data has become progressively more and more important and, in many cases, a competitive requirement. The rate of data collection is increasing everywhere. Highly visible organizations are taking advantage of data in ways that were unimaginable – even ten years ago.”

Big data is so much more than just a buzzword or a trend; it has revolutionized contemporary society in a way that if it were to disappear, the world we have built simply would not function. And now, data-driven organizations are the ones that spur innovation, greatly bolster the company experience and also boost returns.

But what exactly is the Canadian perspective on big data analytics, and what can international students gain from pursuing such a subject in the region?

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According to a 2015 report by Canada’s Big Data Consortium, Canada has a “Big Data Talent Gap” of 10-20,000 professionals with deep data and analytical skills.  The finance and insurance sector represents about a third of this demand.  The Information and Communications Technology Council estimates that the data analytics sector will directly contribute $5B to Canada’s GDP in 2016, growing to $6.5B by 2020.

“I’m very excited about the Science of Information initiative here in Western’s Faculty of Science,” professor Woolford adds. “We have well-established and well-respected degrees in the Statistical, Actuarial and Computer Sciences. We are rapidly expanding into data science and data analytics through creating new degrees.

The fact is that a sector brimming with such growth and potential is nothing but an asset for prospective data science students looking to study in North America. And with Canadian higher education being known worldwide for high-quality training opportunities, the new Master of Data Analytics (MDA) program is positioned to help address the human resource needs of the burgeoning sector with its outstanding graduates.

“The MDA is a one-year, interdisciplinary, professional Master’s program, designed to produce professionals ready to pursue an analytics-focused career,” explains professor Woolford.

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Image courtesy of Western University

The primary objective of the Western Science MDA program is to instil a diverse range of students with the skills needed to thrive in Canada’s booming data analytics sector, allowing them to gain practical experience and apply those skills in an organizational setting.

“The core curriculum is designed to ensure all students develop fundamental data analytics skills. Of course, if you’re hoping to pursue this line of work, statistics and computer science skills are a must,” the Professor concludes. “Communication is also key. In today’s global workforce, it’s crucial that you have the ability to effectively communicate with end users, whether they be clients or managers. You need the ability to explain, both verbally and in writing, techniques and discoveries to both technical and non-technical audiences,” adds the professor, who will also act as the program’s director.

“The specialty field courses, together with internship opportunities, ensure that professional and corporate competencies are developed to secure a successful transition into analytics careers in the public and private sectors.”

The Professional Masters portfolio at Western Science allows for flexibility and growth in response to society’s increasing demand for expertise in multiple fields. It also yields agile programs with the ability to react to market demands, like the MDA, which will be accepting applications in the spring of 2017.

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