Profile story: Big data pioneer takes AI to the next level

Long before Harvard Business Review claimed that data scientists have the sexiest job of the 21st century, big data pioneer and CEO of NGA, (Ngidi Germishuys and Associates) Mark Germishuys, had already secured a patent against Dow Jones and Thomas Reuters to build South Africa’s first data capturing machine and IT-infrastructure. A supercomputer that would surpass all forecasting models and identify industry intention before it happens.

Mark is a Chartered Certified Accountant (UK) and has 20 years’ experience in data and statistical pattern recognitions to identify valuable business insight from large data sets. He first launched NGA in 1999 when big data, machine learning and AI were still in its infancy. Thanks to the Internet data volumes had been growing significantly but without any efficient online business intelligence (BI) tools to analyse the data, it was worthless. NGA set out to not only gather data but to also train their machines to better understand the big data so they could make informed decisions on behalf of their clients.

They’ve been able to fully integrate multi databases into one that require little human interaction resulting in precision analysis of the data. This analysis is free of human error and potential bias can assist executives, managers and other corporate end-users in making informed business decisions about business risk, market opportunities and market insight. This is a process that would have previously taken several weeks or months to complete, or not have been attempted at all.

At first NGA specialised in fraud detection, compliance and regulatory reporting for the health and financial sectors in South Africa and in other parts of the globe. Some of their earlier clients included Mercantile Bank, Theba Bank, Momentum Health, PPS and MX Health.

In 2006, NGA partnered with Fundamo, who were leaders in the mobile payment solutions provider globally. NGA were to monitor the mobile money reporting, anti-money laundering and fraud detection processes until Fundamo were bought by Visa in 2011. During the five year partnership with Fundamo, NGA were instrumental in MTN’s mobile money roll-out in Africa and the Middle East, and the launch of the mobile money system Easy Paisa in partnership with Tameer Bank and the Telenor mobile operator in Pakistan and DTAC in Thailand. 

Today most businesses are able to collect data and if done correctly can be mined and analysed to offer tailored insights about their customers and more interestingly about their competitors. Big data constitutes extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions, thus giving businesses a competitive edge. Data science is probably the most prolific technological innovation in traditional market research since the early 19th century, giving the power back to the client quicker and more accurately.

Companies and brands are now more easily able to forge one-to-one relationships by offering tailored experiences and recommendations to end-consumers. Customers have also come to expect this personalised interaction from consumer-facing companies which is why it’s an essential tool every business should have.   

20 years on, NGA employs a team of data scientists ranging from data engineers, actuaries, mathematicians to domain experts. Their unique data gathering techniques are built on NGA forensic science algorithms and database platforms that combine with geospatial intelligence and in-house scoring technology to effectively deliver customised business insights, and at the fraction of the price making it affordable for South African businesses.

While NGA still offers fraud detection, anti-money laundering and risk management, they have evolved to also include social media analytics, adverse media, and predictive analysis. They are especially focused on unsupervised and supervised modelling of natural language text. Mainly this entails the extraction of patterns from large text. Of special interest is the application of topic modelling and other text mining techniques to both short and long texts, and understanding the modelling challenges posed by doing this. A recent addition to their business is ‘Insight to Grow’ which uses precision imagery and artificial intelligence to revolutionize Sustainable Farming.

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