Ashesi’s Engineering and Computer Science departments led local organisation for a computer research conference that convened over 150 global stakeholders and experts in Accra in July. The annual conference on Computing and Sustainable Societies (COMPASS) was organised together with a steering group of Computer Science faculty from several universities around the world, under the auspices of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). It was supported by Microsoft, Facebook, Google, the Internet Society, Wadhwani AI, and Mozilla. Researchers and students from across Africa were able to attend the conference thanks to scholarship support from the Mastercard Foundation.

COMPASS 2019 focused on research that is aimed towards helping achieve then UN’s sustainable development goals; including but not limited to the sociotechnical, computing and social good fields. The goal was to enhance collaboration among stakeholders in tech and education, to address a range of issues in health, accessibility, education, agriculture, financial services, job creation, and governance.

“There is a lot of growth and potential growth in West Africa,” shared Dr. Richard Anderson, from the University of Washington, who served as General Conference Chair for COMPASS. “And I found it very important that this conference had local and regional participation. It was also helpful to have donors who supported scholarship and traveling stipends, allowing a lot of younger researchers to attend and interact with a diverse set of people, present their work, and get feedback. We would love to see this kind of gathering continue in Africa to build a lasting community of research.”

COMPASS broadly includes papers from four general “areas”: Systems, Human-Computer Interaction, Data Science and Artifical Intelligence, and Deployment Experiences. The conference allows inter-disciplinary groups to submit their socio-technical systems, including sociocultural and STS analyses, field deployments, field experiences, algorithms, and AI development, data science applications, and more. Head of Computer Science at Ashesi Dr. Ayorkor Korsah, and Ag. Dean of Engineering Dr. Nathan Amanquah, served as local arrangement co-chairs; collaborating with organizing committee members from the University of Washington, Cornell University, New York University Abu Dabi, Carnegie Mellon Rwanda, and Ashesi.

“I believe having COMPASS in Ghana this year is very positive for development and giving visibility to some of the projects and papers we are presenting,” shared Dr. Ebo Adjepon-Yamoah, Computer Science faculty at Ashesi and member of the local organizing team. “Some of the solutions presented here can be implemented in policies and the application of IT, and as such help speed up Ghana’s development. Our hope is for projects presented to supported and implemented by stakeholders in governance and other relevant areas. As a teacher, I’m also excited that I have my students participating and meeting new people, for them to realise the value of pushing forward an idea and presenting a good solution.” 

Wayne Gakuo ’19, a recent Ashesi graduate, shared that COMPASS was his first opportunity to share his final year research project – a software application for farmers to sell directly to consumers - with potential collaborators beyond Ashesi.

“I came here because I wanted to enrich my project and refine it based on feedback from professionals who have been in the industry for a while," he says. "For those of us who are new to the tech industry, meeting experienced researchers and practitioners is useful because we can learn from their careers.”

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