‘Technology, data and human literacy are necessary skills for the future’ – UP VC at panel discussion

Posted on December 18, 2019

The role of universities is to create knowledge and train a highly educated workforce that is able to use that knowledge to transform lives, communities, sectors, societies and the world, said Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria.

Prof Kupe was speaking as part of a panel at the Science Forum South Africa Innovation Bridge (SFSAIB) 2019, held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) International Convention Centre recently under the theme ‘The South Africa, Africa and world we want to leave our children: a technologically wise next generation’, with the sub-topic focused on the role of universities.

The event, which was hosted by the CSIR and other stakeholders including the Department of Science and Innovation, was aimed at igniting conversations about impactful science and innovation.

Prof Kupe said rapid technological change presents a challenge to institutions of higher learning in terms of curricula and research objectives.

“We need to reflect on the curriculum and the agendas of what we research; what do we teach and how do we teach, because these technological changes have implications for every domain [in the operation of a University], including how academics do their research. This is something we are experimenting with, trying to mainstream at the University of Pretoria.

“At the centre of our curriculum and research agenda we now need to drive three key competences, namely: technology literacy, data literacy and human literacy, for every student across all disciplines, because the kind of world we live in today and the Africa we want is characterised by complex problems that are intersectional, and which will not be resolved by one discipline only,” he said.

Prof Kupe said technology, data and human literacy are necessary skills going forward and universities need to create spaces for researchers and academics across disciplines to collaborate towards the creation of core knowledge.

Also on the panel were Ndoni Mcunu, Founder and CEO of Black Women in Science; Dr Chamunorwa Togo, General Manager for Bio-economy at the Innovation Hub Management Company; and Natasha Allie, Project and Communications Manager, Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation. Dr Molapo Qhobela, CEO of the National Research Foundation, was the facilitator.

In his closing address, Director General of the Department of Science and Innovation Dr Phil Mjwara said, “I am confident that we can proclaim that we have achieved our stated objective of ‘igniting conversations about science for innovation with impact’.”

He said another objective of the organisers was for the event to continue being fertile ground for the fostering of new science, technology and innovation partnerships.

“I am informed that the Innovation Bridge was most successful in this regard, linking researchers, entrepreneurs, funders and business in a diverse range of new collaborations. The Forum and Innovation Bridge also achieved its science diplomacy objective, with both multilateral and bilateral cooperation being initiated or reinforced through various interactions.  Science truly knows no borders, and many thanks again to all our international partners who have contributed to the success of our event,” he said.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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