iCOMMS Founder & Team Leader | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I graduated from the Technische Universität München, Germany, in 1994 with a Dipl.-Ing.univ in Land Surveying. I received a scholarship for my PhD studies in the then Department of Land Surveying, today Geomatics Department, at University of Cape Town. In 2002 I was employed in the Department of Civil Engineering and over the last decade my research has focused on the application and use of ICTs (Information Communication Technologies) to support the delivery of basic amenities and services to under-resourced communities. With the changing environment of engineering and a clear recognition of the need to improve the interface between applied science and the understanding of communities, my research has moved away from the traditional engineering space into aspects of society and engineering. The innovative use of existing technologies, in my case mobile phones and other ICTs, offers the opportunity to create a virtual infrastructure between decision makers who require up-to-date and reliable information and stakeholders who can provide this information through appropriate technologies. The need for information cuts across disciplines and my contribution over the last decade has been to connect the dots between the knowledge of specialists and the creation of a solution that offers an innovative approach to existing problems. By introducing ICTs in seemingly unrelated fields, such as the health sector, service delivery and the water sector, I have been able to develop technologies that cross conventional boundaries of knowledge, decision making and stakeholder engagement. I leads the iCOMMS Research Team, which focuses on understanding the use of systems and making them benefit society by engaging proactively with government, municipalities, and rural communities by implementing research findings and increasing impact beyond academic boundaries. In 2015, I moved with the iCOMMS Research Team to the Department of Information Systems in the Commerce Faculty at the University of Cape Town. This move is inline with my research interests in IT/ICT4D and IS.
iCOMMS: 2011 – present: Research Team Leader
iCOMMS (Information for Community Oriented Municipal Service Delivery) is a research team within the Department of Civil Engineering that was formed in 2011. The focus of the team is to understand the use of information systems in the context of planning and delivering services in under-resourced environments. We believe that mobile technologies and ICT4D applications have created an opportunity to improve the ways in which we collect data, improve information flow and create a workflow that allows priority-based decision making. Our research contributes to developing models for context-based information systems that are appropriate for local and national decision-making.
Mozambique – World Bank Project: 2012: Consultant
This project formed part of a World Bank Project in Mozambique with CRA, the service and price regulatory authority for the water sector in Mozambique. iCOMMS was responsible for customised training on ICT in the water and sanitation sector for stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds. The objective of the workshops was to build capacity within the sector in order to use ICTs more effectively in regulatory work. The overall intention of the project was to develop an updated ICT system for small-town water supply operations and regulations. The programme involved aspects such as an introduction to the concepts of ICT, a summary of international and African experiences on the use of ICTs and the assessment of options for an ICT system targeted for small towns.
Aquatest: 2006 – 2012: Principal Investigator, water quality management tools
This was a collaborative effort to investigate the development of a low-cost water quality test and associated management systems for use in developing countries and in disasters/emergencies. Contaminated drinking water remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in developing countries, with 1.8 million deaths per year being attributed to water-borne disease. In addition, following major disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, many deaths result not from the disaster itself but from subsequent outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated drinking water. Existing water tests are largely designed for use in developed countries and not in situations where laboratory infrastructure, resources and trained personnel are lacking. iCOMMS contribution to the project is the development of a management system for the collected water quality information using cellular technology. The data management, communication, and reporting systems developed by UCT have been tested in South Africa, Mozambique, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Aquatest research consortium was led by the University of Bristol and includes the University of California Berkeley, PATH, WHO, the Aquaya Institute, the Health Protection Agency, the University of Cape Town, the University of Southampton and the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland. The project has received a US $13 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Preparatory research on Aquatest was funded by the European Union’s FP6: Global Change and Ecosystems Programme.
Lesotho – World Bank Project: 2009: Consultant
This project was part of a World Bank initiative in the transport sector of Lesotho. The main aspect was to develop ICT systems with a particular focus on GIS/GPS setups to monitor road infrastructure and public transport. iCOMMS was responsible for facilitating the discussions between clients/users and the technical development team. iCOMMS also developed, in collaboration with the client, a strategy for GPS implementation and GIS sustainability and maintenance.
Water Research Council – Greywater Management: 2003 – 2005: Collaborative Researcher
This project investigated the management of greywater as a potential additional water source. With an increasing number of households receiving basic water and sanitation, the amount of greywater is continuously increasing. This investigation looked into the disposal of greywater, particularly within the framework of re-usability. The project was a comprehensive study into the management of greywater in the non-sewered areas in South Africa with a view to developing strategic options for best practice. The project was funded by the Water Research Commission.
Cell-Life: 2000 – present: Founder and Board Member
Cell-Life started in 2000 to investigate the use of ICTs as a method to collect real-time data on HIV/AIDS. Little or no data existed to allow appropriate planning and decision making with regards to the availability of basic amenities, health services and other support mechanisms for HIV+ people in South Africa. A separate concern was the fact that existing data collection methods were too expensive and time consuming. The team developed simple cellphone menus for medical staff and home-based carers for collecting real-time data in the most remote locations. The system created a template for telemedicine and m-health initiatives in developing countries. The project attracted substantial funding from a number of organisations. In 2006 the not-for-profit organisation Cell-Life was founded to implement the technologies and support the efforts of government and the civil society sector.
The focus of the research work has been in the public service delivery sector. The postgraduate research reflects this by focusing on the use of ICT (Information Communication Technologies such as cellphones) to increase public participation in service delivery management and improvement of access to services. All postgraduate research projects in the team are based on full-time research only projects in order to allow students to get a deep insight into their topic as well as become part of the iCOMMS team.