ICT Faculty launches 4IR Research Chair

23 February 2023

The Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT) Faculty of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on Friday, 17 February 2023 launched the Research Chair in 4IR in partnership with the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA). This research chair was elicited by what the future of work ecosystems may look like, thus the chair initiative is geared towards three key directives: research and innovation, services, and lastly capacity building, skills development and training. 

Prof Pius Owolawi (right) with student showcasing Humanoid Robot.

Dr Etienne van Wyk, Executive Dean of the Faculty of ICT and interim Campus Rector of the Soshanguve Campus, set the tone for the launch during the formal proceeding as he delivered the opening and welcome remarks. He highlighted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) represents a new era of technological advancements that are changing the world at large.  

“Within the context of the 4IR, the rapid development of the ICT sector and the growth of global interactivity will play an increasingly important role in fostering economic growth and positive societal change,” he added.

With much excitement he added: “TUT is the only university in the country with an ICT Faculty, which means the faculty is uniquely positioned to specialsze in a number of ICT areas. With our more than 7000 students, 130 full time academic staff and more than 200 part-time staff, we have the capacity to research and develop innovative solutions and apply the emerging technologies in the fields of computer science, informatics, networking, multimedia computing, and computer systems engineering. Thus we are very excited about the establishment of this Research Chair in 4IR at our Faculty”.

Simphiwe Thobela, the Chairman of the MICT SETA Board addressed the audience next. He said in 2019 MICT SETA was the only SETA that was approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training to establish a 4IR unit. Thereafter, in 2020, Research Chairs in 4IR were established at only five reputable universities, including TUT. He asserted that the aim of establishing Research Chairs in 4IR was to promote and improve research competencies and innovation in cutting edge technologies. 


In her keynote address, Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, highlighted that  today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, Therefore, newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete due to emerging technologies and the disruptions brought by 4IR. 

“Let’s face it, we are left with little choice but to embrace 4IR technologies as part of how we work, learn and live” she said. 

She further reiterated that universities are not monuments of the elite but they exist to solve societal challenges. Consequently, at TUT, research using 4IR technologies to solve national challenges in areas of health, manufacturing, agriculture, and more is being pursued. The latter is confirmed by the upcoming launch of TUT’s Hub in Artificial Intelligence, under the National Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

Dr Vathi added: “As a University of Technology that aims to empower people, supported by MICT SETA’s vision for cutting edge future skills, the launch of the research chair in 4IR paves a way for much needed research and innovation solutions to:

  • Advance the development of new technologies, making it possible to create more efficient and effective systems and processes; 
  • Introduce 4IR technologies that have the potential to increase productivity and economic growth including job creation and improved standards of living for our citizenry in line with the National Development Plan (NDP 2030) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (DGS); and
  • Lastly, to address the socio-economical challenges faced by South Africa today through 4IR solutions and advancements in healthcare, energy, and transportation.

Prof Pius Owolawi, MICT SETA 4IR Research Chair Holder and HoD of TUTs Department of Computer Systems Engineering, had the audience in awe with his presentation. He presented the numerous student projects that were already being developed in two years under his supervision. These projects include:

  • MICT SETA LMS Systems
  • Giz/SANEDI Energy Efficiency Lighting Project Mobile Application
  • Work Integrated Learning Management System Mobile Application
  • Cognitive Computer Vision Drone
  • Spraying Drone
  • IoT Based Irrigation Systems
  • Reverse Engineering project
  • Multispectral Projects
  • UAV Sower
  • Delivery Drone
  • Drones for agricultural surveying
  • Animal Naming /Population Census System
  • 3D Printer
  • Car Security System
  • Humanoid Robot
  • Vision-based fruit sorting system – mango, orange, and apples
  • Apple classification detector for fruit quality management
  • 3D Multilayer Design 
  • Virtualization of switches & relays using computer vision
  • Zero waste green energy generation
  • Agriculture E- commerce-Ubuntu basket
  • Agroface: Agriculture Social Networks
  • TUT Chatbot

To see the projects on display, please click here: https://www.facebook.com/TUTCommunications 

Signing of MoU.
Prof Pius Owolawi providing an overview of students'.
student projects.

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Phaphama Tshisikhawe, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
Tel: +27 12 382 4711  Email: tshisikhawerpt@tut.ac.za