Best paper award at IST Africa conference

DURBAN- The IST Africa 2010 Conference Organizing and Programme Committees recently honored five Masters students from the University of Fort Hare who are working under the Telkom Centre of Excellence hosted in the Department of Computer Science.  They won the Best Paper Award, for their submission entitled 'Technology Solutions to Strengthen the Integration of Marginalized Communities into the Global Knowledge Society'. This award was handed over by the Honorable Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, during the conference held from the 19th to the 21st of May 2010 at the Durban International Convention Centre.

IST Africa 2010 was hosted by the Government of South Africa through the Department of Science and Technology and the European Commission. Major sponsors included the IEEE South Africa Computer Chapter, the Computer Society of South Africa, NOKIA and the South Africa - Finland Knowledge Partnership on ICT project (SAFIPA).

The five students, Bulumko Hlungulu, Dumani Kunjuzwa, Nkanyiso Ndlovu, Sikhumbuzo Ngwenya and Jimmy Samalenge, are currently pursuing their postgraduate studies in Computer Science. They submitted a paper under the category 'Technology Transfer and Leveraging ICT to address the Digital Divide' under the guidance of Dr Mamello Thinyane and Prof Alfredo Terzoli. Their paper presents part of the work done in the Siyakhula Living Lab (SLL), an ICT initiative based in the Dwesa and Nkwalini communities in the rural Transkei.

The Siyakhula Living Lab uses the quadruple helix model (through the support of academia, industry, government and community), and was initiated by the Telkom Centers of Excellence at the University of Fort Hare and Rhodes University in late 2005. It represents the re-organization of its field work component along the lines of the 'Living Lab' R&D methodology which seeks to co-create applications and e-services with empowered communities/users.

To date, SLLs achievements include establishing one of the first rural WiMAX networks in South Africa, the provision of internet to the community via five schools, the creation of an e-commerce website for local arts and crafts and the provision of computer training courses for local teachers and members of the community. The work is based on the premise that there is an untapped, immature telecommunications market in rural South Africa.

The conference, which was the fifth of its Annual Conference series, focused on the Roles of ICT for Africa's Development, specifically on Applied ICT research topics addressing major societal and economic challenges. It was attended by over 400 delegates, had 22 exhibition stands, and featured over 160 presentations from government, commercial and research organizations from 40 countries (18 European countries, 18 African countries, and 4 others).

In addition to the conference paper, a combined exhibition stand for the University of Fort Hare and Rhodes University showcased the work done within in the Siyakhula Living Lab, and the upcoming Reed House Systems (RHS) which was started in 2010 with the objective to transform the results of the experiments in the SLL into commercial offerings for large clients, such as governments, corporations and NGOs. This exhibition stand received a lot of attention, praise and requests for partnerships from other attendees. It was further honored by being selected to be one of the three stands that hosted Minister of the Department of Science and Technology during her visit to the exhibition stands.

Such work fulfills the aim of the Telkom Centre of Excellence to combine research work with community engagement, through providing innovative ICT solutions appropriate for marginalized rural communities.

[by: Sibukele Gumbo]

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