The 2023 WiDS Riyadh Datathon Workshop, part of the global Women in Data Science (WiDS) Conference, was hosted by Alfaisal University on January 28th and organized by several regional WIDS Ambassadors in Saudi Arabia. The workshop aimed to provide mentorship and training for those interested in participating in the WiDS Datathon Challenge, and, more generally, anyone with a strong interest in data science.

The WiDS initiative aims to inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and to support women in the field. WiDS started as a one-day technical conference at Stanford in November 2015. Several years later, WiDS is now a global movement that includes several worldwide initiatives including a conference, a Datathon, a podcast and an education outreach program. WiDS was first introduced to Saudi Arabia in 2017 via the regional WiDS 2017 Ambassador, Dr. Areej Al-Wabil at Effat University with sponsorship via King Abdulaziz City for Science and technology (KACST). In the following four years, WiDS expanded to eight regions in Saudi Arabia with more than 12 Ambassadors, spanning 20+ local institutions, and 50,000 participants taking part in WiDS 2020 activities in the Kingdom.

The WiDS Riyadh Datathon Workshop at Alfaisal University consisted of data science and machine learning (ML) tutorials followed by a team-based practical session focused on a single data science task. A Datathon is an interactive data-focused hackathon with a dataset and a limited time frame where participants use their skills and creativity to build, test, and explore solutions. The 6th Annual Stanford University WiDS Datathon launched on January 4, 2023, bringing together people from across the globe to use data science to address real-world problems. In this year’s datathon challenge, participants used ML, artificial intelligence (AI), and other data science methods to explore different models for predicting and preparing for extreme weather events caused by climate change, using a dataset created in collaboration with Climate Change AI (CCAI). The WiDS Datathon was hosted on Kaggle, an online community of data scientists.

In the WiDS Riyadh Datathon Workshop, participants were introduced to data science concepts and methods that are relevant to the Global WiDS 2021 Datathon Challenge. Workshop tutorials were presented by regional WiDS Ambassadors, The WiDS Riyadh regional Ambassadors included Ms. Safia Dawood, Dr. Noor Alsaadoun and Dr. Areej Al-Wabil representing Alfaisal University, as well as Dr. Kholoud Khateeb represented the Health Holding Company, The WiDS KAUST regional ambassador, Ms. Fai Alismail represented King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) and presented a workshop on data visualization during the workshop. Participants were able to form teams during the workshop and get hands-on experience implementing machine learning models and working with the WiDS Datathon Challenge dataset. Mentoring was provided by regional WiDS ambassadors in the WiDS Riyadh Datathon Workshop at Alfaisal University, and ##  teams took part in the 2023 challenge, Globally, more than 1,800 teams have joined the WiDS 2023 Datathon with 90 countries represented and more than 25,800 entries on the Kaggle platform.

The datathon is a key part of WiDS’ mission to advance and sustain the growing momentum of women’s participation in the data science field by providing them with inspiration, education, community, and support. The regional WIDS Datathon Workshop in Riyadh was a collaboration led by regional WIDS Ambassadors with the support of Alfaisal University’s College of Engineering and College of Medicine. This year’s datathon focused on longer-term weather forecasting to help communities adapt to extreme weather events caused by climate change. The dataset was created by the WiDS global team in collaboration with Climate Change AI (CCAI). WiDS participants submitted forecasts of temperature and precipitation for a short term forecast, competing against the other teams as well as official forecasts from NOAA.

The regional “WiDS in KSA” nation-wide program covers all regions in the Kingdom and is held annually under the umbrella of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology MCIT’s Attaa Digital initiative, with logistics support provided by the Saudi Society for Data Science (SSDS) and Bayan for Data Science. The Attaa Digital initiative is an extension of the Kingdom’s efforts emphasizing its pioneering role leading digital transformation in the region, being one of the fundamental enablers for the realization of Vision 2030  with the aim to build a digital economy, a digital government and a digital society, altogether geared for creating a vibrant environment, a prosperous economy and a better future for the Kingdom.