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Computing research as a development driver

By: Jackson Namu 
The Data Science workshop was held on 1st and 2nd June 2016 at the College of Computing and Information Science in Makerere University. The workshop is held annually to discuss new innovations and research projects on information technologies. Researchers across Africa and other parts of the world met to discuss research projects and innovations made in the field of Information science.

The workshop was opened by the Dean, School of Computing and Informatics, Assoc. Prof. Gilbert Maiga. The Dean provided a ten year background of the College and elucidated on the partnerships that have helped the College grow tremendously namely; the governments of Sweden, Netherlands and Australia etc. The Dean enumerated the Research groups within the College like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Science, and Metega (Mobility to Enhance Training of Engineering Graduates in Africa) Projects.

“Our mandate is to do training, research, and community outreach by sharing the results generated from research with the society” the dean said.

Professor Gregg Pascal Zachary from Arizona State University emphasized that Africa should no longer have to absorb other people’s technologies to be the recipients of diffusion, they can create their own technologies for themselves and other Africans. Prof. Gregg further explained that there is a quiet revolution and Makerere University should lead the way in computer research in East Africa.

“Makerere University is the center for Computing Research in East Africa. You have the weight, the scale, the resources, the pedigree and the achievements to beat the market for the whole region” Professor Gregg said.

Dr. James Wetmore from Arizona State University said that he was happy to find people from East Africa come together to discuss innovations. He also informed the workshop that approached the government of America to finance the workshop and he succeeded convincing them.

Dr. Peter Nabende is involved in research in the third world. He is involved in knowledge based systems where he has looked at diagnosis in the context of expert systems. He has developed systems that can assist in crop disease diagnosis and systems to prescribe herbal medicine. Dr. Nabende is also involved data managing analytics and machine translation in Ugandan languages like Luganda, Acholi and Lusoga.

Dr. Julianne Sansa-Otim is an expert on Internet of Things (IOT) which involves a broad interconnection of machine to machine publications for exchange of data within multiple sectors. Dr. Sansa-Otim specializes on Environmental monitoring and she enumerates the challenges involved in her field. Amongst them include the selection of sensors for weather especially the price and the cost of the sensors, connectivity of the sensors, where there is near zero connectivity in Africa. Functionality of a system needs to be robust and reliable. IOT networks are useful in energy especially in massive solar deployments and in agriculture.

Dr. Benjamin Kanagwa is interested in software architecture, requirements engineering and software verification. He has worked on web services with the intention of discovering and integration web services and specialized on cloud computing. He is involved in a research for Small Medium Enterprises (SME) like chain supermarkets. He has also designed a system to monitor patient satisfaction in hospitals.

“We can make SMEs and government systems more agile and information ready with an eye on microsystems that are adaptive to third world environments.” Dr. Kanagwa said.

Dr. Earnest Mwebaze is working on Mobile Crop Surveillance by understanding the state of health of crops remotely by use of mobile phone. He has also designed Automated Diagnosis Systems for malaria and tuberculosis where medical professionals are absent. Other research projects he has been involved in include designing systems for food security, selling agricultural produce, traffic surveillance etc.

Assoc. Prof Engineer Bainomugisha is working on a project for Air Pollution Monitoring because research has found that some areas in Kampala are four times more polluted than the recommended ratio by the World Health Organization. The second project involves Pothole Identification using computer science. Sensors are attached to vehicles and the information relayed can be interpreted to know where there are potholes so that they can be fixed by authorities immediately.

Dr. Peter Waweru Kamaku from Jomo Kenyatta University in Kenya is involved in a project on maize growing in Kenya. Maize is the staple food in Kenya and its absence or increase in price can lead to political instability. In his project, he has made an SMS system of communication for most of the farmers since they do not use smartphones. The system is able to deliver needed information to maize farmers on the varieties and pesticides of maize.

Brian Omwenga from University of Nairobi is involved in the measurement of innovation and innovative activities. He finds a formula of measuring innovation in Africa and Mauritius becomes the most innovative country in Africa.

Professor Bruce Krogh, Director of Carnegie Mellon University is interested in Energy systems supported by ICT. He is a professor in electrical and computer engineering. Africa has been able to make systems of payments for power through mobile phones and other ICT gadgets.

Dr. Joyce Nabende, a panelist in the workshop made a presentation on the Architecture of Information Systems in Organizations where business processes are a core functionality. She elucidated more on work distribution and business process simulations that can be redesigned, merged, knocked off or automated to provide a better process. “Several workplace organizations have a way of distributing work which are too optimistic and do not take resources into consideration.” Dr. J. Nabende said.

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