UFH has ambitious plans for 4IR

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The University of Fort Hare (UFH)  featured prominently at the 15th Annual ICT Summit held at the East London ICC on 20 and 21 November.

Every year the summit is proudly hosted by the Eastern Cape province. It functions as a powerhouse where businesses engage in talks, networking for business development opportunities, and creates platforms to strategize and discuss new topical ICT issues, trends, and innovative ideas.

The main objective of the summit is to create a platform for government departments, corporates, entrepreneurs, IT specialists and universities to exhibit the latest trends and solutions within the ICT industry.

“As a province, we do not want to be left behind while the 4IR is taking over the world. We view ICT as a solution to many of our challenges and as a cornerstone for the development of this province”.

 The keynote address was delivered by UFH alumnus and Eastern Cape Premier, Honourable Oscar Mabuyane.

Expressing the Eastern Cape’s commitment 4IR, the Premier said: “As a province, we do not want to be left behind while the 4IR is taking over the world. We view ICT as a solution to many of our challenges and as a cornerstone for the development of this province”.

Professor Sakhela Buhlungu was one of the roundtable panellists. Other members included:

  • Mr Mavuso Msimang, Chairperson of Corruption Watch;
  • Prof Jean Greyling, Computer Science Associate Professor at Nelson Mandela University;
  • Mr Xolani Mbulawa, the provincial head of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA);
  • Dr Chris Ettmayr, Renewable Energy and ICT Sector Manager at the East London Industrial Development Zone;
  • Ms Zine Nkukwana who is the Chief Executive Officer of South African Women in ICT;
  • And Mr Baxolile Mabinya, Technologist and Executive Director of Deviare. He also sits on the Presidential Commission on 4IR.

Speaking during a panel discussion, Prof Buhlungu expressed the university’s ambition around the 4th Industrial Revolution (4Ir).  “We are a university that is located in a very rural setting, however, that does not mean we are without ambition.  Our ambition is to become a digital university”, he said.

In the exhibition hall the UFH had two stands. Mr Phila Sibandze,  Head of the  GIS and Remote Sensing department, showcased his department’s  (and university’s) potential offering in the 4IR space. The second UFH exhibition stand was manned by  Mr Mncedi Rani, Technology Curator at Forté School of Science and Technology (FOSST) who engaged learners on how to assemble a Lego Robot.

This year’s summit attempted to address a topical issue: Is South Africa ready to embrace 4IR?

“Currently there is no big bang 4IR readiness plan. It is going to be incremental. it’s about building blocks and taking things step by step. Sometimes we do not see results  in the immediate term,  but over the long term we will see results.”,said Prof Buhlungu

The University of Fort Hare’s drive to embrace 4IR is evident in several programmes and partnerships within our departments. These include our partnership with the National Electronic Media Institute of SA (Nemisa) to provide digital training to thousands of learners and teachers.

“We are also part of the 4IRSA alliance between the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), Telkom, the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg. The alliance seeks to stimulate and facilitate an inclusive national dialogue to shape a coherent national response 4IR”, explained the VC.