22 October 2018
Paul Cunningham, IIMC/ IST-Africa shared ongoing results and experiences from the IST-Africa Initiative during the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, from 19 - 21 October 2018.
IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC) is a cross-disciplinary annual conference focused on advancing technology for the benefit of humanity in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. GHTC brings together stakeholders from the public, private, education and research and societal (not-for-profit) sectors to address the critical issues for the benefit of the resource-constrained and vulnerable populations in the world. The program included sessions related to Technology enabled Healthcare, Disaster Mitigation, Affordable & Clean Energy, Agriculture & Food Security, Applications for Poverty Alleviation, Clean Water & Sanitation, Community engagement and capacity-building, Connectivity & Communication, Healthcare, Humanitarian Challenges & Opportunities, Education and Entrepreneurship.
IST-Africa Institute collaborated with the IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee to deliver a participatory workshop on 20 October during IEEE GHTC 2018. This session was well attended with over 60 participants from different parts of the world.
The primary objective of this collaboration is to build relationships with IEEE members from the public, private, education and research and societal sectors with either an existing track record or interest in engaging with key stakeholders in Africa for then purposes of leveraging technological innovation for societal impact. This can facilitate an expanded network of organisations with the capacity and interest to cooperate with African institutions to carry out research and innovation as well as implementation projects.
Not alone is this important from the perspective of cooperation under the European Research and Innovation Framework Program, it also facilitates opportunities which might not otherwise be explored to involve African partners in other funding programs which sometimes have differences rules and different focus to Horizon 2020 for example. Such research and innovation programs are often funded in the US for example by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and NSF (National Science Foundation). IEEE also has over 6,000 members across Africa, many based in private sector organisations as well as research and innovation sector organisations. Working through IEEE channels provides opportunities for engagement with stakeholders whom sometime we could not target directly.
This objective of leveraging non-traditional networks involved successful scientists, technologists and engineers around the world is very well aligned with IST-Africa's strong focus on encouraging research, innovation and implementation projects addressing local societal challenges and national policy priorities which are co-designed with local community stakeholders.
As well as raising awareness of research and innovation stakeholders who could be local partners in activities targeting Africa countries, Paul also gave examples of existing Horizon 2020 supported projects involving African partners, to highlight the research and innovation capacity that exists across the continent. mHealth4Afrika was discussed to showcase a very successful project focused on addressing cross-border issues while adapting solutions to meet national policy priorities.
The methodology used by IST-Africa to involve horizontal ministries with a mandate to support and build sustainable relationships with other line ministries responsible for key economic sectors including education and health was discussed in detail, and found to be of great interest by conference participants as a model that can be adapted elsewhere.