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Wits at the forefront of the technology revolution

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, wrote a book about this, calling it “a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”

Vice-Chancellor’s message:

Professor Adam Habib has indicated that Wits is embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution and infusing technology through all aspects of University life, including teaching, research and learning. “We have invested R500 million in an ICT upgrade, adopted a new cutting edge research strategy, and introduced innovative blended learning options, including a digital campusonline courses and high tech classrooms.”

Curiosity magazine:

Wits’ research magazine devoted an issue to the interaction of humans and technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct:

A partnership between Wits University, the JCSE, the LINK Centre, the City of Joburg and others, Tshimologong is an e-skills, software innovation and digital knowledge hub. It provides a venue in which to research and nurture tech hubs – those “digital incubators that design futures for people”.

LINK Centre:

The centre offers research and training in telecommunications, Internet, broadcasting, digital media, social media, e-government, digital transformation, innovation systems, cybersecurity and intellectual property.

Feeding facts into business:

The first ever Chair in Digital Business in Africa was established at Wits Business School in 2016. It aims to build up a body of research and prepare business people for the digital era.

Africa takes its place:

Wits hosted the first Deep Learning Indaba in 2017, its aims being to increase African participation in and contribution to the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and to address issues of diversity in these fields of science. Wits alumni were among the international expert speakers.

Smart cities:

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) is a partnership between Wits, the University of Johannesburg and the Gauteng provincial and local government. Its mandate is to help inform decisions that make urban life better for all. Primary data collection, data analysis and visualisation are some of its most significant research contributions. 

Data for public health:

Wits leads the sub-Saharan African Consortium for Advanced Biostatistical Training. This group is developing a network of biostatisticians who will train researchers and develop ways of analysing health data.

Mines of the future:

Innovative technology solutions for the mining sector are the focus of the Digital Mine project at the Wits Mining Institute.

Humans and machines:

Researchers at Wits are finding unique and interesting ways to employ technology and artificial intelligence in the workplace and to improve people’s lives.
Wits robotics researcher and alumnus Dr Benjamin Rosman has been awarded Africa’s only grant in the 2017 round of the Google Faculty Research Awards. The grant is in the “Machine learning and data mining” category.

Learning online:

Wits offers short online courses through Digital Campus.


Biomedical engineers at Wits are connecting a human brain to the internet in real time.

The future of work:

Prof Imraan Valodia says we should protect the most vulnerable people in the labour market from the impact of the revolution.

Beefing up bandwidth:

Wits’ Structured Light Laboratory is looking at alternative sources that will be able to take over where traditional optical communications systems are likely to fail in future.

Future engineers:

Electrical and information engineering students designed and built projects for the School of Electrical and Information Engineering Open Day in October 2017.

Making sense of complexity:

The Wits Rural Facility became a ‘lab in the bush’ for a systems analysis thinking and modelling programme. Delegates learnt to use cutting-edge software in complex, interdisciplinary research.

Stone Age meets Digital Age:

Anthropologist Prof Robert Thornton writes about the people and techniques extracting the minerals required to make the technology for Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Is digital access a human right?

Researchers examined the relationship between quality of life and the extent to which individuals are digitally connected. They found that digital inequality co-exists with other forms of inequality.

A new way of learning:

The launch of a high-tech eZone, eFundanathi – “Learn with Us” – is set to revolutionise teaching and learning at Wits.

Telling the story of our 2,6-million-year history:

The Origins Centre has a virtual reality production which takes visitors on a journey through time.

Think and it’s done:

Biomedical engineers at Wits are researching how brainwaves can be used to control a robotic prosthetic hand.

Picture the future:

Wits offers courses in Digital Arts, including Game Design and Interactive Media.

Witsies in the AI and robotics field:

A young supremely talented group of Witsies are influential in the AI and Robotics field.

  • Shakir Mohamed (BSc Elec Eng 2005; MSc Elec Eng 2007) Research Scientist in Statistical Machine Learning and AI, Deep Mind, London
  • Fernando de Freitas (BSc Elec Eng 1994; MSc Elec Eng 1997) Professor of Computer Science, Oxford University
  • Vukosi Marivate (BSc Elec Eng 2007; MSc Elec Eng 2009)  Data Scientist, Senior Researcher, CSIR
  • Richard Klein (BSc 2010; BSc Hons 2011; MSc 2013; PhD 2017) Wits School of Computer Science
  • George Konidaris (BSc 2001; BSc Hons 2002) Director of the Intelligent Robot Lab, Brown University