Edward and Teklay share their experiences from Africon 2017 in this post written by them.

Recently, the ICT4EEDU project had the great privilege to share some of its achievements at IEEE AFRICON 2017, the premier biennial event in Africa by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE). This flagship conference gives academic and industry attendees the opportunity to share their research in areas with a focus on relevant to Africa, such as, power and energy, remote sensing, engineering for healthcare, communication networks and education technologies. The event was hosted at the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront Cape Town, South Africa, from 18 to 20 September 2017. This year’s edition of AFRICON had over 300 papers presented by authors from over 50 countries, from within and outside the African continent (see image below).

The ICT4EEDU paper co-authored by partner organisations of the project consortium and was presented at the AFRICON 2017 by Teklay Tesfazghi of the Eritrean Institute of Technology (EIT) and Edward Mutafungwa of Aalto University. The paper titled “A Collaborative Approach for Local Training on Contemporary Mobile Technologies in Eritrea” described the experiences from the implementation training of a course on Advanced Wireless Technologies (AWT) at EIT. Specifically, the paper demonstrates how the course design was fit with the local context and training needs within the mobile ecosystem. Furthermore, the paper outlined the teaching approach and hands-on learning activities that were utilized in the AWT course. The capacity-building activities described in this paper are inspired by the unprecedented uptake of mobile services in Africa has had substantial direct and indirect impacts on the local economies. Eritrea is one of the countries in the continent that is relatively late adaptor of mobile broadband technologies. This change in the local mobile landscape is creating an urgent need for enhanced local expertise in mobile technologies. To that end, the local higher education institutions (HEIs) play a key role in the capacity building process. The collaborative approaches and experiences shared by the ICT4EEDU presentation at AFRICON 2017 provided a useful model for local HEIs in Africa that, like Eritrea, undergoing similar process of adapting advanced mobile technologies. Let us know if you want a copy of the paper.

Although the majority of the papers at IEEE AFRICON 2017 traditional conference papers that presented novel scientific or engineering contributions, it was good to note that the ICT4EEDU paper was not the only publication that presented engineering education aspects. Indeed this thematic area had over 25 papers, which further underlined the strong interest in new capacity building approaches and interest not just in Eritrea, but across Africa. It was further interesting to note that the ICT4EEDU paper was not the only contribution in conference from the HEI ICI programme, with another paper presenting results the HEI ICI ENhANCE project activities in Ethiopia!

Colleagues of the HEI ICI ENhANCE and ICT4EEDU meet at IEEE AFRICON 2017.

Picture below: Colleagues of the HEI ICI ENhANCE and ICT4EEDU meet at IEEE AFRICON 2017.

The IEEE AFRICON 2017 conference was insightful and provided a valuable glimpse of the IEEE-specific research areas that are getting the most attention by scholars in Africa. This included contemporary research in areas, such as, fifth generation (5G) mobile technologies and machine learning. The latter was very much in the spotlight at AFRICON 2017, with IBM Research Africa also sponsoring a workshop on Applications of Machine Learning at the event. This provided insights on how machine learning could address some of the continents grand challenges, including, health and the environment. This indeed was a wonderful coincidence as Teklay from EIT and ICT4EEDU was soon to embark on his doctoral studies in the same area! Teklay’s future doctoral research ambitions received great inspiration from the IBM machine learning demos and valuable new contacts were established with young researchers from the IBM Africa group.

The next edition of the AFRICON conference will be held in Ghana in 2019, it is with great anticipation to see this event have even more papers presented from Eritrean scholars, including those that may be a legacy of the ICT4EEDU capacity building activities.

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