Professor Bhekisipho Twala.
Prof Twala received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Statistics from the University of Swaziland, a Post Graduate Certificate in Statistics, and later an MSc in Statistics from Southampton University (UK). He further graduated with a PhD in Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning) and Statistical Science from the Open University in Milton Keynes in the UK.
He has extensive knowledge in making artificial intelligence a respectable branch of mathematics in the form of computers that learn and think on their own and vast experience in creating data comparison, inference, analysis, and presentation to design, collect and interpret data experiments surrounding the fields of banking and finance, engineering, education, humanities, medicine, robotics, transport, and much more. Prof Twala’s track record of publications in books, book chapters, journals, conferences, invited power talks, seminars and workshops, and the ability to communicate scientific ideas to an informed lay audience is second to now. The increasing reliance on quantitative evidence when making decisions means that Prof Twala’s research work will continue to have a vast impact on all walks of life.
Speaking on Prof Twala’s appointment, the Chairperson of the TUT Council, Mr Tilson Manyoni, said that Digital transformation is changing institutions and businesses worldwide. “This has been true for some time, but nowhere has digital transformation been more apparent than at universities, hence we also launched the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW), an ideation hub for global public-private collaboration and invention, designed to respond to the requirements of the rapidly-changing world of work brought about by the 4IR. The drive for digital transformation at universities has been a significant factor in allowing higher education institutions to flourish during the COVID-19 pandemic. But digital transformation isn’t just about responding to the recent crisis. Rather, university digital transformation will continue to reshape teaching and learning, as well as student and educator experiences for years to come. We believe as Council that Prof Twala will reposition and carry out the university’s digital transformation ambitions immaculately,” said Manyoni.
Before joining the University, Prof Bhekisipho Twala was the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment and Professor in Artificial Intelligence and Data Science at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). He was also the Director of the School of Engineering (University of South Africa). He held several prestigious positions at the University of Johannesburg, including Director of the Institute for Intelligent Systems and Head of its Electrical and Electronic Engineering department. He also held the position of Principal Research Scientist at the Council for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) within the Modelling and Digital Science Unit. Furthermore, Prof Twala did his post-doctoral research fellowship at Brunel University in the UK, mainly focussing on empirical software engineering research and further looking at data quality issues in software engineering.
Currently, his work involves promoting and conducting research in artificial intelligence within the electrical and electronic engineering science and built environment fields and developing novel and innovative solutions to crucial research problems in these areas. His broad research interests include image and signal processing, multivariate statistics, applied and theoretical machine learning, knowledge discovery and reasoning with uncertainty, and the interface between statistics and computing. He is the author and co-author of more than 180 journal articles, a book, book chapters and other publications. He has made more than 50 keynote and related presentations at national and international forums.
Prof Twala has received many honours, including the 2016 NSTF/SOUTH32 TW Kambule (Research & Outputs) award. He is a former Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Semantic and Infrastructure Services; Regional Editor of the International Journal of Big Data Intelligence; an Associate Editor of the Information Sciences Journal, International Journal of Big Data Intelligence, Intelligent Data Analysis Journal, Journal of Computers, International Journal of Advanced Information Science and Technology, Journal of Image and Data Fusion, Journal of Information Processing Systems, International Journal of Internet of Things & Its Applications.
He is also a Professional Scientist and a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. Other professional memberships include the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM); the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in South Africa (CITSA), Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), member of the International Association of Engineers (IAENG); South African Council for Automation; and International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC).
Commenting on his appointment, Prof Twala said: “My overriding feeling is excitement. I genuinely believe that no job in South Africa can have as significant an impact on everyone’s life as this one, and that applies to all of us; we all have a part to play in helping South Africa make better decisions. There is no part of our day to day lives where Digital Transformation (Dx) has had no impact. When you send your children to school, there is a place because Dx informed where school places need to be. When you take the bus or train, Dx has been used to work out commuting flows to have a seat. When you turn on the television and the news is on, I struggle to find any story which an output from the Dx space cannot inform”.
He added: “I am excited to lead Dx in this next stage of its development. But we are in this together, and, as I see it, part of my job will be enabling us all to have the tools, skills and processes to do more of the great things I have already mentioned. There will be many challenges and, I hope, successes ahead. I also look forward to the support of colleagues as we work together to provide the information that we all need to inform the decisions we need to take,” Prof Twala concluded.