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In closing off their Youth Month celebrations, the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Students for Sustainable Change hosted its first Virtual Youth Innovation Forum on Zoom on Monday, 29 June 2020.

This event was held under the theme: The Role of Youth Innovations in Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Speaking on behalf of the organising team for the event, the Community Engagement Practitioner, Ms Phumzile Xulu from the Office of the Deputy-Vice Chancellor: Research Innovation and Engagement said the purpose of the event was to celebrate Youth Month by creating a platform for experience sharing for youth, by youth and on youth-led innovative solutions tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The forum offered a safe space for discussions and exchange of ideas for innovations needed to face the current challenges. It also explored the support available across DUT and supporting institutions and to leverage such opportunities,” said Xulu.

DVC: Research Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo addressed the youth, especially on the importance of 15 July 2020, World’s Youth Skills Day, which is celebrated globally.

Professor Moyo said there will be youth forums online from 6 July 2020 to 14 July 2020 to help the youth understand what is happening around the world.

She encouraged the youth to make use of these online platforms as they can get ideas of different solutions, for some of the challenges they are currently facing. “We have an opportunity not to only showcase what the youth are doing but we can use this platform to come up with ideas. If we look at COVID-19 and the different challenges it caused, we know that from the statistics that about 70% of youth are now affected as they are not able to go to school. Look at access to data, connectivity, trying to deliver remote learning and teaching for students, these are some of the challenges,” said Moyo.

Moyo said by 2021 there will be an Innovation Hub at DUT which will be able to host students’ start-ups, where they can apply for an incubation space and develop their ideas.

Information Technology student at DUT, Gomolemo Mohapi presented a video of the “Highlights Reel of Innovations”, emphasizing some of the innovations that have come to formation in response to the current pandemic. He said that some of the shifts that are impacting industries will create a long term disruption in the way that people interact with each other, and will actively shape businesses for decades to come.
Mr Ebrahim Asmal, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Technology (IT) said he is interested in getting youth involved in the new technologies so that they can progress, become innovators and entrepreneurs. He said in all the projects they run they ensure that the students are involved from the beginning to build their skills. He revealed that one of their projects is the Luban Workshop which has been at the forefront in fighting COVID-19 at DUT, where they designed face shields to curb the spread of the virus.

Senior Researcher at the Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology (IWWT) at DUT, Dr Sheena Kumari said that they started a new project focusing on using wastewater to assess the spread of COVID-19 in the community. She said they use this project to track the disease outbreak in the community, as most of the COVID-19 patients shed this virus in their faeces, ending up in the water and wastewater system. She said they are trying to detect the virus in the wastewater, using it to track the virus and identify the hotspots using this approach.

Mr Simphiwe Duma, Managing Partner and Chief Technology Officer at Admond Capital and South African Co-ordinator of the MIT-Africa and South African Universities Programme said COVID-19 is giving people an opportunity or forcing them to create their own employment. He encouraged students to think differently and never stop believing in their dreams because they might face a sad reality of being unemployed after graduating.

Chris Minoko, IT Student at DUT, part of the group ‘The Oracles’, that recently won the Hackathon challenge spoke about their innovative idea, The Oracle that made them excel in the challenge. He said their idea had an impact in addressing the pandemic because when it comes to information and searching of information they try to facilitate the search, consuming less data and making it easier to get information.

Financial Accounting student, Mthunzi Mapatwana who is also the President of Enactus at DUT, said they are looking at addressing issues that came with COVID-19. He said they believe that the University should not only focus on improving the city but should also contribute and serve as the knowledge hub for the rural areas its surroundings.

Pictured: Information Technology student at DUT, Gomolemo Mohapi who was one of the presenters at the Virtual Youth Forum.

DUT’s Students for Sustainable Change hosted its first Virtual Youth Innovation Forum on Zoom on Monday, 29 June 2020.

Simangele Zuma

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