Dr Thandi Mgwebi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor:Research, Innovation and Engagement, talks about Going Digital in response to the question, “How inclusive is our development agenda?”
In the first of a series of articles on the importance of Research and Research Management, Dr Mgwebi asks the critical question whether Going Digital can address critical issues, such as sustainable safe food production and water provision, and even inequalities in our society.
This follows her recent facilitation of a session, at the European Science Forum. Dr Mgwebi explains that “Science is more open nowadays and the world demands more multidisciplinarity, community engagement, collaboration and partnerships.
“TUT’s newly approved research, innovation and engagement strategy (RIES 2018 – 2022) definitely aims to position TUT as a global player and certainly as a leading institution for engaged scholarship. Platforms for sharing information and data that emanate from research, are therefore critical,” Dr Mgwebi continues.
According to her, Going Digital, is an enabler of economic growth and is a vehicle for our response to social inequalities and developing skills. “E-infrastructures, research clouds and the management of data are all central to this digital agenda and to enabling the implementation of national, regional and global plans.”
“In Africa and of course in the rest of the world, the digital revolution is seen as providing a multitude of benefits, and key platforms have been developed to address diverse global challenges from health, climate change, disaster management and development of smart cities,” Dr Mgwebi says.
Emphasising the importance feeding into the global agenda, Dr Mgwebi explains, “the digital agenda will certainly be a catalyst in the implementation of the UN’s SDGs (for more information click here), as well as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 (for more information click here) in addressing the global issues. The development of an African Data Intensive Research Cloud will undoubtedly provide a unique platform to enable African researchers, including our own TUT researchers, across many disciplines to access large data sets and tools for data analytics.”
Referring to the recent launch of the SKA precursor, the Meerkat, that will generate large amounts of data, she continues, “Research bodies and universities make use of digital platforms and data to inform decision-making and strengthen partnerships between Africa and the rest of the world. Private sector demands the links of the digital data with skills and the ways in which they can respond towards creating and enhancing sustainable development. Initiatives of data analytics and modelling could assist with the key issues of analysis, decision-making and policy making towards the enhancement of the quality of life and economic growth.”
In conclusion, she highlights the questions that arise:
- With the wave of disruptions, from social to economical, that are prevalent around the globe and the impact of the connectedness of the world where analyses, examinations and conversations can be carried out from anywhere in the world, several questions arise, “Are we on track with training the next generation of scholars for global citizenry?”
- The issues of culture and cultural policies also come to the fore.
- How do we consider language for inclusiveness?
- Is the phenomenon of brain drain still relevant and a great concern?
- In the era of open science, is our data reliable, open and accessible for multi-stakeholders to use?
- At institutional and national level, what platforms are we creating to maximise the benefits of data in addressing our challenges?