$300,000 research funding granted to Wits University for Digital Transformation studies.

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Wits University scholars have successfully obtained funding as a network partner of the African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec).

The Afretec Member Inclusive Digital Transformation Research Grant, totaling $300,000 US, is designed to facilitate collaborative knowledge creation among network partners over a three-year period. Current Afretec members include Carnegie Mellon University Africa, The American University in Cairo, Wits University, and the Universities of Lagos, Nairobi, and Rwanda.

In 2023, final proposals were submitted, leading to the allocation of funds for various projects, with the following Wits researchers and scholars securing grants:

  1. Wits School of Education:

    • Project Title: “Improving Digital Education and Learning Innovation in the Rwandan and South African Teacher Education Systems: Towards Bridging a Digital Knowledge Divide in Africa.”
    • Team Members: Professor Juliet Perumal, Dr Emmanuel Ojo, Dr Reuben Dlamini, and Professor Leketi Makalela.
    • Collaborating with the University of Rwanda, the project focuses on advancing digitally innovative teaching approaches and promoting collaboration between South African and Rwandan education institutions, particularly in under-resourced rural schools.
  2. Wits School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics:

    • Project Title: “Culturally Sensitive Social Robotics for Africa.”
    • Lead Researcher: Professor Benjamin Rosman.
    • In partnership with Carnegie Mellon University Africa, the project aims to identify and incorporate social and cultural norms into the behavior of social robots for effective interaction with African individuals. The research will address the acceptance of social robots based on cultural factors.
  3. Wits School of Economics and Finance:

    • Project Title: “Finia: Financial Inclusion via Novel Intelligence and Alternative Data.”
    • Lead Researcher: Professor Chimwemwe Chipeta.
    • In collaboration with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University Africa, the project focuses on exploring digital strategies for financial inclusion in Africa, examining factors influencing the transition to digital financial services, and utilizing machine learning tools to predict financial distress among African startups.
  4. Wits Department of Neurological Surgery (Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital):

    • Project Title: “Low-Cost, Accessible Biotechnologies for African Hair and Dark Skin Colours.”
    • Team Members: Dr Ziporah Katz, Dr Rachel Nossel, and Dr Yair Katz.
    • Collaboration with multiple institutions, including Carnegie Mellon University, aims to enhance biotechnologies such as EEG and PulseOx to accommodate diverse African hair types and skin tones.
  5. School of Electrical and Information Engineering (EIE) and Department of Internal Medicine (Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital):

    • Project Title: “Towards IoT-enabled Privacy-preserving Large-scale Healthcare Analytics in Africa: A Use Case on Monitoring Cardiovascular Disease.”
    • Researchers: Professor Turgay Celik (EIE) and Dr Dineo Mpanya (Internal Medicine).
    • Collaboration with the American University in Cairo and Carnegie Mellon University focuses on designing affordable, privacy-preserving digital technologies utilizing IoT for monitoring cardiovascular diseases.

In addition to individual projects, Wits is actively represented on Afretec’s various pillars, including Teaching and Learning, Knowledge Creation, Inclusion and Diversity, and Entrepreneurship, each allocated $500,000 US annually for their activities. An additional $500,000 US is available for collaborative infrastructure projects within the network.

Source: Witwatersrand