The International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology (IASSIST) is an international organization of professionals working with information technology and data services to support research and teaching in the social sciences. IASSIST has a membership of over 300 from Academia, Government, Non-profit sector, and the Private sector. This includes Information specialists, Data librarians, Reference librarians, Technology professional and Data archivists.


Winnie Nekesa (IASSIST Regional Secretary – Africa addressing delegates at the Conference

IASSIST in collaboration with the East Africa School of Library and Information Science (EASLIS) and Association of Parliamentary Libraries of Eastern and Southern Africa (APLESA) hosted the 1st IASSIST Africa Regional Conference in Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda from the 11th – 13th January 2021.

In this conference, data literacy was aligned to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since application and utilization of quality data significantly contributes to the attainment of the SDGs.

The Conference kicked off with remarks from the Chair National organizing committee Prof Constant Okello-Obura, (Dean, East African School of Library and Information Science EASLIS). In his comments, he was delighted to welcome all the participants to Uganda to participate in this pre-eminent edition of IASSIST African Regional Conference. He hoped this opportunity would stimulate the participants data literacy knowledge and scientific intellect. He emphasized on the importance of the theme for the conference which was geared towards addressing the SDG’s through digital literacy. With the war against COVID-19 still raging he encouraged participants to take care of themselves to follow all the Standard Operating Procedures of fighting the virus as stipulated by WHO so that everyone goes back healthy and sound.

He then invited Prof. Sandra Cannon (President, IASSIST) to provide a few remarks where she shared a brief background on IASSIST. She also thanked participants for committing to attending the first-ever IASSIST conference in Africa despite the Covid19 pandemic and its challenges. With a diverse mix of delegates and representations from a number of African countries Prof. Cannon was confident, this would speak volumes in terms of the resolutions arrived at that should shape the data literacy systems in Africa as a continent

Officially opening the conference was Prof. Tonny Oyana (Principal, CoCIS) who was delighted with the fact that the theme for the conference was well aligned with the Makerere University Strategic Plan 2021. His other comments focused on the IASSIST agenda specifically, what is data? what is literacy? and how can we measure it? He also thanked the participants for honouring the invite and wished the conference participants successful deliberations.

The conference which was had a total of forty participants from the USA, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Italy, Zimbabwe, etc. used a blended approach whereby those who could attend physically were welcomed and for those that could not, an online platform for their presentations was provided.


International delegates at the 1st IASSIST Africa Conference

Some of the Keynote speakers during the conference included;

Mr. Adonia Katungisa Adonia – a professional Librarian, Administrator, Library and Information Science (LIS) trainer/ Lecturer with a working experience of more than 20 years. Currently, he is working at the National Library of Uganda as the Director and a Part-Time Lecturer for LIS Program at Kyambogo University (1999 –to-date). His topic focused on the area of Libraries and sustainable development

Albert Byamugisha, (PhD) – who is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors- Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS). He is also the Senior Technical Adviser and Head of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at in the Office of the Prime Minister. He is also the Chairman of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) National Governance Council since December 2018 to – date.

Prof. Sandra “San” Cannon ­- the first Associate Vice Provost for Data Governance and Chief Data Officer at the University of Rochester. She is responsible for the University’s enterprise-wide data strategy, data policy and process development, and data support services. Prior to joining the University, San worked in data management and analytics in the Federal Reserve System for more than 20 years.  She spoke about Data Literacy and SDGs a Global Perspective

Some of the key conference presenters to name but a few also included;

Flavio Bonifacio who has carried out research in the socio-economic field and has worked in the field of data analysis and data science since the late seventies. He has dealt with problems regarding the school system by publishing several books and articles on the subject.

Felix Patrick Majawa a University Librarian for Mzuzu University. He has worked as Technical Services Librarian before he became University Librarian. Obtained a Diploma in Library and Information Studies from the University of Botswana, Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Malawi Chancellor College and Master’s Degree in Information and Library Management from Loughborough University-UK. His areas of research interest include Digital Library Management, Data Curation, Open Access and Social Media. Presented papers at different Library and Information Science Conferences in Africa.

Lubega Kagugube Johnson who has built over 30 years’ experience in research, statistics and statistical capacity building for both qualitative and quantitative techniques of data collection. He holds a Master’s Degree in Population Studies from the University of Ghana, a Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Processing Information Systems from the International Statistical Programs Center of the US Bureau of Census, a Post Graduate Diploma in Project Planning and Management from the Uganda Management Institute, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Statistics from Makerere University, Uganda.

All presentations were based on the sub-themes listed below

  • Data mining
  • Statistical literacy
  • Approaches to Data literacy education
  • Trans literacy in achieving SDG’s and
  • Research Data management

Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba and Prof. Obura launching the IASSIST Africa Chapter

Assoc. Prof Umar Kakumba, Winnie Nekesa and Prof. Okello Obura with delegates that presented the best research papers

During a brainstorming session, the participants were encouraged to provide feedback about the conference and future expectations. Some of the feedback included

  • Requests for a parallel training session on Research methodologies and Presentations
  • Provide a virtual training for those not physically on ground
  • Request for other Colleges within the University to also participate
  • Provision for libraries at district level in Uganda

The conference came to an end with remarks from the Vice Chancellor Makerere University represented by Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba During his remarks he reiterated the importance of data literacy and the SDGs which was a recurring theme during the conference. He also got the opportunity to hand out certificates to all participating delegates and recognized the best research paper presentations at the conference. With the conference officially closed Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba then officially launched the IASSIST Africa Chapter.

Special thanks go out to the Local Organizing Committee which comprised of:

  • Simon Engitu, Parliament of Uganda
  • Robert Buwule, Kyambogo University
  • Godfrey Nabongo, Uganda Bureau of Statistics
  • Cissy Akello, YMCA Institute
  • Vincent Akumu, Media for Science, Kampala
  • Lois Mutiibwa, Makerere University
  • Winny Nekesa Akullo, IASSIST Africa Regional Secretary
  • Claire   Bukenya – Makerere University
  • Wabuna Harry, Ornamental Company
  • Juliet   Josiah, Parliament of Uganda

and International Organizing Committee of

  • Antonin Benoit Diouf, African Institute for Economic Development and Planning, Senegal
  • Adetoun Oyelude, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Purity Kavuri – Mutuku, Kenya National Library, Kenya
  • Lynn Woolfrey, DataFirst, University of Cape Town, South Africa

for planning and organizing a successful first ever international IASSIST conference in Africa amid all the challenges especially the COVID-19 pandemic.

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