The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Director and Head: Enterprise Development Unit and e-Skills CoLab Director, Dr Colin Thakur has added another accomplishment in his illustrious career following his recent appointment as the Research Chair in Digitisation for the Banking Sector Education and Training Authority (BANKSETA). His appointment is effective from October 2018 to October 2020.
The BANKSETA is mandated with skills development and transformation in the broader banking & microfinance sector and to support people development through partnerships, skills development, alleviating unemployment, creating a brighter future and enabling change.
The Chair in Digitisation currently falls under the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation & Engagement), Professor Sibusiso Moyo, who is pleased with the positive outcome and impact it will have on skills training for the current and future skills that the sector needs.
“The award of the Chair in Digitisation to DUT goes to attest the impact we as DUT are making in this area. It is means that we are thinking about being part of the change we want to see especially around the fourth industrial revolution, the opportunities it brings with it and the skills that we require to ensure our citizens are able to cope and become versatile producers and users of technologies and knowledge generated. As a University of Technology we have to be in the forefront and lead in this area. A special congratulatory note to Dr Thakur for bringing this Chair to DUT,” said Prof Moyo.
The dynamic Dr Thakur said he is humbled and honoured by this appointment. “I thought when I took an administrative position it was going to stifle my academic career yet strangely enough my academic output seems to have grown. I’m proud to do this wearing the DUT cap because I think it is important that we recognise the value and impact that DUT has in our lives from a reputation and prestige point of view,” said Dr Thakur.
Dr Thakur said his appointment was triggered by the meta-analysis (study) conducted by him and his team on the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) on the banking sector. “We know that we are moving between the digital world, biological world and the physical world, which we even term the cyber-physical world. We constantly get excited and fearful over robotics. So the question that we have to ask ourselves is; given all the changes that are happening now, how does 4IR affect the banking sector in general?” he said.
“Let me put this into perspective, the biggest economy in Africa is Nigeria, but if you took all the banks in Nigeria and made them into one bank that bank will still be smaller than Standard Bank and First National Bank (FNB). So that gives you an idea of how well run our banking is, and how much reputation it has,” explained Dr Thakur.
Dr Thakur cautioned that while our banking sector is already in the 4IR and enjoys international recognition, it is however important to close the skills gap that exists between skills produced by our higher education system against the demands of the 4IR within the banking sector.
“The challenge that we have one of supply and demand, the universities are supposed to be supplying the skills required by the 4IR. The question that we need to ask ourselves as universities is; what have we done to change our output to meet the needs of the 4IR, and to meet the needs of the banking sector or any other sector? What have we done differently in the last 10 years to our curriculum that speaks to the 4IR?” he probed. Further the demand since is evolving dynamically – so we actually need a partnership rather than a supply-demand model.
Further advocating for a responsive education system, Dr Thakur said, “We are living in a converged, multidisciplinary world yet we teach almost in a silo through single disciplines. So what are we doing about interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies?”
Dr Thakur is a renowned digital activist, and he holds a DTech in ICT through in which he has developed a multi-modal voting model and voter validation to leverage the ubiquity of mobile devices as a voting tool. He regularly delivers keynote addresses, consults, provides expert commentary and writes for the media.
DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu welcomed the BankSETA Research Chair. “This digitisation research must be viewed as a ‘feed forward’ project. It will take feedback from technology and feed this forward to inform our strategy within the skills sector. I also urge the team to innovatively examine the unbanked with sensitivity and urgency,” said Prof Mthembu.
Pictured: Dr Colin Thakur