With DS4A / Colombia Cohort 6 underway, we take a closer look at the program’s broader historical, geographic, and business context.
As the world adapts to the growing data economy, forward-thinking government leaders understand that it’s essential to prepare their workforces for the future.
That’s why the Colombian government ministry dedicated to information and communication technologies, telecommunications, and broadcasting counts on Correlation One to train the nation’s emerging data and AI talent.
DS4A is a novel job readiness program that relies upon world-class data science instruction in a synchronous online environment that builds talent, fosters professional networks, and transforms workforces.
“To do AI, you need talent. Local talent. And this is exactly what our program delivers in a whole new way,” said Rasheed Sabar, Correlation One’s co-Founder and co-CEO.
In March 2022, the sixth DS4A / Colombia cohort launched with 1,800 student participants.
Yet over 52,000 Colombians have applied to participate in DS4A / Colombia since 2019, with 2,300 having completed Correlation One’s data science training to date.
“DS4A was the best academic experience of my life. It literally changed my life, because I found a new job with better working conditions and better pay,” said Javier Eduardo Ibarra Gutierrez, a graduate of DS4A / Colombia Cohort 2.
Before we take a closer look at the latest cohort’s composition and experience,
let’s first explore the program’s broader historical, geographic, and business context.
Over the last decade, the Colombian government has sought to position this nation of 50 million people as a “Latin American Silicon Valley.” It’s an ambitious vision, yet one that is already transforming the country into a dynamic tech talent and business innovation incubator.
Pictured: The Colombian government is transforming the nation into a modern tech hub.
Leading the charge to future proof the workforce is the country’s Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones, known more commonly as “MinTIC”. And this is the same governmental agency with which Correlation One partners via DS4A / Colombia.
Founded in 2009 and currently headed by Carmen Ligia Valderrama Rojas, MinTIC aspires not only to have a regional impact but a global one as well. Colombia’s emergence as a tech hub is increasingly seen as a model for any country – but especially in the Global South – that seeks to follow a similar path.
MinTIC and forward-thinking political figures have worked alongside universities, businesses, and industry leaders to grow the nation’s technical capabilities.
As Luis Carlos Villegas, the former Colombian Ambassador the United States who later became his country’s defense minister, wrote in a 2014 essay:
“There is a need to create innovative products and services for the very poor, not only in Colombia but across the globe. With this vision, the country is working to position itself as a laboratory for technology solutions and applications for the base of the pyramid – know-how that can be exported to other nations facing similar challenges.”
Training Urban, Suburban, and Rural Tech Talent
Globally, industry leaders and venture capitalists are taking notice of Colombia’s efforts. Among them is Andrew Ng, the renowned computer scientist and technology entrepreneur.
In 2019, Ng spoke to TechCrunch and commended the nation’s strong talent pool, business ecosystem, and educational system:
“I see early signs of momentum for Colombia being a talent magnet both regionally and globally,” [Ng] told [journalist Frederic Lardinois]. Indeed, [Ng] was able to hire team members from Poland, Bangladesh, Egypt and Chile for [his company’s] offices in Medellin …. It’s important, Ng argues, that we set up AI hubs outside of Silicon Valley and China, in part, because they’ll provide a different perspective. … “Local knowledge and innovation shared with a global community is what will catapult the technology forward.”
Of course, to successfully attract talent and industry, it doesn’t hurt to have an incredible backdrop, either. Today three beautiful Colombian cities are regarded as the jewels in this emerging tech hub’s crown: Medellín, Bogotá, and Santiago de Cali.
And when DS4A / Colombia first launched as an in-person training program, it focused on those three cities – plus a smaller one, Barranquilla.
Yet as technology becomes more affordable and accessible, learners adapt to online learning, and dispersed businesses embrace hybrid and remote talent, there’s a tremendous opportunity to create a nationwide pool of tech talent – in cities, suburbs, and rural communities simultaneously – that can scale with growing international and homegrown business investment in a geographic area.
In 2020, DS4A / Colombia transitioned to a “Live Online” format, holding classes virtually and synchronously to maintain the benefits of an in-person classroom. This change made our data science training more equitable by creating access in rural and underserved areas outside of the main metropolitan cities. In fact, 33% of the current DS4A / Colombia Cohort 6 Fellows reside outside of the four cities cited above.
It’s important to note that DS4A offers learners so much more than mere instruction. The program aligns with industry workforce needs while providing last-mile-to-jobs support for learners that can help Fellows transform into engaged employees.
“DS4A is giving the top people in Colombia the exact skills domestic and international employers are looking for,” said Alejandro Correa Bahnsen,Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer at Rappi, a large Bogotá-based logistics startup.
“We offer an advantage to countries like Colombia in that, within just 13 weeks, we can provide Fellows (trainees) fundamental data science knowledge,” said Eric Dusseau, Correlation One’s Senior Manager of Business Operations. “Our award-winning, synchronous training programs offer students the chance to develop skills under the guidance of world-class instructors. And we actively connect learners to one another and industry in meaningful ways.”
Indeed, in a nation determined to increase its reputation as a desirable tech hub, the program’s affordability, brevity, rigor, and focus on job-related outcomes make it a striking alternative to many traditional academic programs.
Plus, judging by the program’s overall application numbers, the appeal to prospective Fellows is strong, too.
A Closer Look: DS4A / Colombia Cohort 6
In March, the sixth DS4A / Colombia cohort began their journey together via Zoom. Before the program launched, competition to join the class was fierce. On social media, newly admitted Fellows expressed a mixture of jubilation and excitement.
“The launch of a new cohort is always exciting. As a former DS4A student and TA, as well as a proud Colombian, it’s special to me personally to help provide this program to the people of Colombia” said Oscar Pérez, Manager of Business Operations. “Our Fellows are selected purely on the results of a challenging, merit-based technical exam. They know they’re coming together with some of the country’s brightest minds. So, they arrive as curious to see their peers as to meet their instructors and teaching assistants.”
Until mid-July 2022, the Cohort 6 Fellows will receive instruction together and work on 75 real-world data projects submitted by Colombian entities.
In previous cohorts, project topics have ranged from developing strategies to improve criminal policy and lower recidivism rates to how best to prioritize agricultural project funding.
Real-world projects that build data science skills. A forward-thinking attitude and mindset. Professional connections on which students can build lucrative careers. All totaled, DS4A Colombia makes for a memorable journey to professional success.
“DS4A was a life-changing experience for me, it makes me realize that we all can make a difference through data science. I’m more than grateful to Correlation One and MinTIC for such a great opportunity, and I look forward to applying all I learned to real-life problems,” said Alejandra Catalina Parra Ochoa, a Cohort 3 alumna.
So, what can other governmental, business, and organizational leaders learn from the story of DS4A / Colombia?
“With rising costs associated with traditional secondary education degrees, organizations know they must find ways to train and upskill talent efficiently and well,” said Shamsudeen Mustafa, Correlation One’s co-Founder and co-CEO. “This is as true of government agencies, like MinTIC, as our corporate Employer Partners. Naturally, we welcome inquiries from nations and, closer to home, individual states and municipalities here in North America that share our commitment to democratizing data.”
Because in the race to develop tech talent, a little extra effort to support adult learners can prove transformative, particularly in a world with rising data talent needs.
As each successful DS4A / Colombia program demonstrates, MinTIC and Correlation One are proving it’s a manageable, worthwhile, and life-changing undertaking.
Curious to learn how your state, local, or federal government might partner with us to nurture workforce data skills? Learn how we help governments prepare their workforces for the data economy.