One of the DNA strands of the Durban University of Technology (DUT) is engagement. According to the DUT-strategic plan 2.0, for engagement to be successful, the University has to develop dynamic interfaces between itself both inside and outside the University. At the core of all engagements must be the core functions of the University – the generation of knowledge, its dissemination, its application and continued use.
In line with that, DUT students are constantly doing research which is impactful on society and obtaining recognition both locally and internationally.
For Yaseen Khan, from the KwaZulu-Natal CoLab and a Master’s student at DUT; his research was given recognition in South Africa in Parliament on 17 May 2018. He was given an invitation to the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services Budget Vote Speech 2018. He was called as a guest by the Minister and Deputy Minister of Telecommunications & Postal Services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele and Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. This was due to the e-Skills Colab current research on Sentiment Analysis on the #FeesMustFall Twitter campaign which found intriguing evidence of software robots commonly called bots which were deployed to drive public sentiment.
“The recent FeesMustFall campaign drew a lot of attention from government, society and media. Social media was trending and viral with focus on the campaign, named #FeesMustFall. In particular, Twitter generated a lot of tweets (data) using the hashtag #FeesMustFall. The question that arises is: Given the digital age we live in, and the frequency of electronic social behaviour exerted, can we not make use of social media data and apply analytics that can provide insights into public opinion, detect its trends, weed out bots and possibly even be able to apply predictive models that may be used to prevent or promptly deal with events such as #FeesMustFall,” he said.
Dr Colin Thakur , who is the is the KZN e-Skills CoLab Director, said: “The e-Skills Colab prides itself on undertaking research that is contextually relevant to South Africa and its emerging challenges. Social media sentiment analysis is an important computational algorithm to feel the pulse of the nation.”
Khan was thoroughly excited to be able to be part of Parliament and be acknowledged for his research, as well as see first-hand the issues that were discussed at Parliament that pertained to the theme on: Building the 4th Industrial Revolution Army.
“My highlights of the trip were meeting the Minister and Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and being recognised by the Deputy Minister, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams in her speech as well as being made to stand up in Parliament as a form of recognition,” he said.
Pictured: Yaseen Khan at Parliament.