M-Kopa Case Study: ‘Dataquest is Changing the Way We Work’
“We're a business with terabytes and terabytes of data that we should be using to help rural Africans gain access to electricity and financial services, yet we're not using it nearly as effectively as we need to be.” That’s the problem that led David Damberger, the chief data officer at M-Kopa, to Dataquest.
Changing Lives with Social Enterprise
M-Kopa is a Kenya-based green energy and finance company that provides small solar systems and loans to customers in East Africa who might otherwise have to go without power.
“It's hard to measure, but we are probably one of the largest, most successful social enterprises,” Damberger says. Since its inception in 2012, M-Kopa has made over a million loans to off-grid customers, connecting them with clean solar energy and giving them access to capital to finance things like school fees and agricultural projects.
M-Kopa’s loans can help customers access life-changing services. But to be able to continue providing loans and other services, it needs to be able to make sense of the mountains of data generated by its growing customer base. That’s where Dataquest comes in.
Adding Critical New Skills to the Data Team
M-Kopa’s data team includes several data scientists and a variety of analysts with less advanced data skills, and it was having trouble getting the insights it needed from the huge data sets it was dealing with.
“A skillset of just using Excel and some SQL is just not sufficient to deal with the data that we have,” says Damberger.
So the company started looking for ways to level-up the data team’s collective skillset. Because the company is based primarily in Kenya, finding a platform that worked online where students could study on their own time and at their own pace was a must.
“Some of us were using [another data science learning platform],” Damberger said, but after several members switched to Dataquest, they quickly realized they liked it better. They also realized that Dataquest offers really useful team features for group training that could help their coworkers, too.
“So we started bringing more and more of our data team onto Dataquest,” says Damberger. “Now we have 15 members across three different teams who are on Dataquest, using the platform.”
Because Dataquest offers a wide variety of data science courses and students can enroll in any course they’d like, the platform has been beneficial to employees with very varied skill levels. “On our team we have pretty senior data scientists who are very proficient in R, Python and building data science models,” Damberger says. “But then we have a whole bunch of other data analysts and credit analysts who basically had no background in coding and basically they were just using Excel to do a lot of analytics.”
“Now the team is all taking courses,” he says. “We're growing all their skills. Everyone in the data world sees that the future is much more towards being able to code in R, Python, and build models and understand different algorithms. So that's been the motivation for us.”
The Dataquest platform itself has also helped with motivation since team members can see other team members’ progress. “We really like the team functionality that allows everyone to be accountable to each other,” Damberger says. “Seeing people’s progress on the platform and having a bit of competition is really good. We’ve actually paired this with prizes, recognizing people for improving and working through the platform.”
“We are always hiring top data scientists who want to solve interesting problems that have a social impact on the world, but we also need to make sure their skills stay up to date with the latest trends.”
“Dataquest is changing the way we do our work fundamentally,” he says. “We're trying to move most of our team away from simple data reporting and business intelligence to more advanced analytics and more data-driven insights.”
“That's where we want to go. So yeah, Dataquest is totally changing the way we do business. We're just really excited about being able to continue to upscale the team.”
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Charlie is a student of data science, and also a content marketer at Dataquest.