The biggest advantage of the MultiChoice Chair in Machine Learning from the perspective of the Department of Computer Science is its ability to attract top postgraduate students who are involved in a very visual aspect of the discipline.
Machine learning is making a major contribution to the advancement of information and communication technology at the moment. Students’ involvement in projects of relevance to MultiChoice gives them good experience that they can use when they enter industry. Working in collaboration with this cutting-edge technology giant in sub-Saharan Africa gives them the feeling that what they are doing is of benefit to the people of Africa.
The projects that our postgraduate students are doing on topics related to the MultiChoice programme have generated a lot of internationally published research. This contributes to giving the University of Pretoria the competitive edge in computer science research. It also adds to the Department’s research output in terms of both the number of graduates and the number of publications. This played a role in the University’s increased international ranking in computer science and information systems.
While most research projects initiated in the Department of Computer Science have the potential of being largely academic and theoretical – especially at postgraduate level – the MultiChoice projects give students the benefit of being able to use what they have learnt in industry.
This meets one of the requirements of the MultiChoice Research Chair in terms of human capacity and skills development in AI and ML, and encourages students to pursue further postgraduate studies. At master’s level, students develop techniques that enhance MultiChoice’s existing technology. MultiChoice assists by providing a list of potential topics from which students can choose to conduct research in an area that interests them or that is aligned to previous research they have conducted.
Students can make use of data that is available at MultiChoice for their research, and attend regular meetings with the company’s AI team to discuss the application of their research. This gives the students additional experience in solving real-world problems, while improving their communication and problem-solving skills. Through this support from MultiChoice, students are exposed to real-world applications. They also have the opportunity of employment by the company following the completion of their studies, where they can apply what they have learnt.
I look forward to the continued collaboration with MultiChoice.
Prof Nelishia Pillay