Message from the Chairholder: Computer Engineering

From the perspective of the Computer Engineering programme, the collaboration with MultiChoice has fostered a greater appreciation of the technological challenges and opportunities encountered in industry.

The establishment of the MultiChoice Chair in Machine Learning opened novel research avenues to students in the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering that are problem specific, and for which ready-made solutions do not exist. This, in turn, led to research projects that were addressed by students supported by MultiChoice as part of their postgraduate studies.

This enabled skills to be developed in ML applications related to audio and video processing, the streamlining of business processes, recommender systems, automated translation and speech recognition and other topics of interest to MultiChoice. For example, automated translation allows MultiChoice to develop local content that can be consumed by a wider audience. This has the added advantage of promoting multilingualism within the South African context. 

Computer engineering students are benefitting from the partnership with MultiChoice in many ways.
Postgraduate study fosters critical thinking and develops the skill to approach a problem using sound engineering and scientific principles. This enables them to correctly characterise a problem. This is a highly sought-after skill in business, not only locally, but internationally as well. 

Students are also equipped with knowledge and skills in ML with a focus on audio, video and signal processing applications. These skills are in demand in South Africa and abroad, and could assist in making companies like MultiChoice more globally competitive. Through the opportunity of participating in MultiChoice’s vacation work programme, students also get to meet their prospective employers and colleagues. 

The most important benefit, of course, is the financial support the students receive from MultiChoice, which allows them to proceed with postgraduate study. For many students, this may otherwise not have been  possible.

In the process, the research outputs developed in the form of papers presented at international peer-reviewed conferences and published in accredited journals contribute to expanding the Department’s research profile.

With the extension of the partnership for a further five years, I am confident that an even closer working
relationship will be established with MultiChoice.

Prof Pieter de Villiers

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