PUTRAJAYA: The government has rolled out the first phase of the big data competency centres in higher learning institutions nationwide to address the shortage of big data scientists in the countries. Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Polyteknic Ibrahim Sultan (PIS) are the first five to be set up with the centres at the total cost of RM2.5 million. Big data scientists process and analyse large sets of data with computers to reveal patterns of human behaviour. Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said at the current number of about 4,000 big data scientists, the country is facing a great shortage of big data scientists. "We are in need of 16,000 experts in the fields of data science, data analysis, data modellers and data miners by 2020," he told reporters after launching the initiative, here today. He added that the competency centres, a joint initiative by the Education ministry and Prestariang Group, will act as a focal point in recruiting big data scientists to Malaysia. This project was also executed in collaboration with global information technology players such as Oracle, IBM, EMC Microsoft, SAS and Unisys. All centres will be jointly managed by Prestariang Group and the higher learning institutions involved. Idris also said in the second phase UiTM will be the next university to be set up with the big data competency centre in the second phase.