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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) and ICTAS: ICT and Society hosted the 5th Annual Information Communication Technology and Society Virtual Conference (ICTAS2021), held on 10th and 11th March 2021.  The annual Information ICTAS-IEEE international conference is also the longest running international conference in South Africa.  

The 2021 ICTAS-IEEE conference featured three world-class keynote speakers. They were Costin Bădică who is a Professor and Director of the Doctoral School “Constantin Belea” in the Faculty of Automation, Computers and Electronics at the University of Craiova. His research inclination is towards artificial intelligence, software engineering and distributed multi-agent systems. Carlos E. Palau is a Professor in the ETSI Telecommunication at Universitat Politècnica de Valencia. Dr Maria Schuld is a researcher for the Toronto-based quantum computing start-up Xanadu, Big Data, and Informatics Flagship of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. 

On the final day, DUT’s Professor Oludayo O Olugbara delivered his lecture on:  Readiness of African Universities for Transformative Education in Smart Society

Prof Olugbara, Executive Dean: Faculty of Accounting and Informatics, National Research Foundation (NRF) rated Researcher, is the founder of the ICT and Society (ICTAS), Niche Research Group and the Vice-Chair of the Space Science Research Group at DUT. He currently serves on numerous committees of the university.   

Explaining more on his topic, he said: “Smart society is an empowered community that harnesses the mammoth potentials of fourth industrial revolution technologies for hyper-connection of things and novel applications of advanced wireless networks to improve lives and livelihoods of people,” he said. 

He relayed that in a smart society, it is expected that human wisdom will agglutinate with the clout of intelligent machines to shape a better world, improve the wellbeing of people, strengthen the economic, and enhance institutional effectiveness. 

“The anticipated world is characterised immensely by high productivity, improved quality of life, reduction of hiatus between investors and markets, and creation of new opportunities for massive economic development. However, the acquisition of relevant knowledge and skills is an integral feature of shrill readiness for a smart society. This requirement essentially demands for transformative educational pattern that is driven by technology-rich curricula, technology proficient trainers and pervasive accessibility to varying emerging technologies,” he said. 

Prof Olugbara explained further on the development of education from the first industrial revolution to the fourth industrial revolution in a mutual effort to provide a riposte to the open question. 

“Education changes with industrialisation, but relevant transformative change in educational pattern is required to realise an inclusive, sustainable and empowered society,” he said. 

Prof Olugbara also discussed a fascinating number of research projects across the world universities that give a pointer to the outlook of the future society which included robotic leagues, autonomous vehicles, bionic humanoids, to the Language Immersion Robot (LIRO). 

“In as much as no one can accurately predict the future, it can be constructed effectively to improve lives and livelihoods,” he said. 

The final day also entailed presentations and discussions on cybersecurity, machine learning, E-Health, computer networks and engineering, machine learning and artificial intelligence and image processing.   

The conference ended with the announcement of the Best paper award which was given to Mohale Molefe and Jules-Raymond Tapamo, for their paper titled: Classification of Thermite Welding Defects using Local Binary Patterns and K Nearest Neighbors. 

The Runner Up Paper is titled:  Micro-spatial modelling of malaria cases and environment risk factors in Buhera rural district, Zimbabwe, which went to Elliot Mbunge, Richard C Millham, Professor Nokuthula Sibiya and Sam Takavarasha Jr. 

Giving thanks to the keynote speakers, authors for their scholarly contribution scholars for their fascinating talks and presentations was DUT’s Professor Richard Millham.

He also thanked Dr Progress Mtshali and his team for quickly stepping in and turning the conference into a virtual one; the DUT organising team for working continuously throughout the year to bring a world-class online conference. 

Pictured: Some of the attendees at the final day of the virtual conference. 

Waheeda Peters 

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