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Tayarisha welcomes Dr Phelelani Mpanza

- TC

Meet Dr Phelelani Mpanza, a postdoctoral fellow based at the newly emerging Tayarisha African Centre of Excellence in Digital Governance, hosted by the WSG.

It is a joint position with the Wits Innovation Centre (WIC). Mpanza will expedite Tayarisha’s research capabilities. The Tayarisha Centre is an African hub for teaching, research, policy dialogue, and outreach on the challenges and opportunities presented by digitisation in the public sector, society, and industry in Africa.

Mpanza will be a crucial connector between Tayarisha and the WIC, whose aim is to create Innovation Incubators that provide fellowships intended to support PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.

He will work with the Centre on supporting the development of a GovTech innovation programme in collaboration with WIC, creating the opportunity for action research linked to practical digital transformation challenges of governments.

We caught up with Dr Mpanza to find out a bit more about him.

TC: What is your educational background?

PM: I obtained a PhD in Business Sciences (Management) from Wits University and completed a BRCIS Programme from Fudan University in China.

TC: Tell us about your area/field of interest

I’m currently conducting research on government technology commonly known as Gov-Tech and Innovation. My interest is working on a programme to create a platform for SMMEs to develop innovative and digital solutions to assist government increase efficiencies in services delivery.

TC: Why did you choose the field of study?

My PhD research was on innovation, however with a focus on Challenger Banks (small, recently created retail banks). Recently, I’ve developed an interest in exploring how public innovation and Gov-Tech through digital solutions can improve services delivery in our country.

TC: What are some of the key discoveries you made in your work relating to societal challenges?

I have had the opportunity to learn more about the Wits Innovation Strategy and the Innovation Ecosystem and the potential this has to address societal challenges. From a research perspective, the increase in public sector innovation, driven by solutions to improve governance, is an approach that fuels development. Gov-Tech is a whole-government approach to public sector modernisation that promotes simple, accessible, and efficient government. During the Covid-19 lockdown, several households could not make payments for their municipal accounts. Recently, there has been a rapid online municipal payment platform surfacing to address this challenge.

TC: Is there any community-based work that you have done or are doing?

Yes, in 2015 I was very instrumental in developing the ABSIP Youth Unemployment Accord, a policy document to address the rising unemployment in the country. I am involved as a Non-Executive Director of Pa Gaxa Foundation (Non-profit Organisation promoting Education and Sport) and work closely with the KwaMashu Business Chamber to develop the township economy.

TC: What are your next goals?

To publish more of my research during my postdoc journey and turn innovative ideas into real products, services and new business.

TC: Tell us about your experience thus far at Wits.

I have a very supportive structure in this collaborative fellowship between the Tayarisha Centre and the Wits Innovation Centre (WIC). The calibre of mentorship from prominent academics and industry leaders at the centre is invaluable. Through the fellowship, I have been awarded an opportunity to be part of the Global Academy Crucible Programme (Horizon Institute), which provides opportunities for early career academics to visit partner institutions for experience exchange. Through the programme, I will be off to the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom in January 2023.