The journey to the first joint multidisciplinary eMIG Conference, recently held in Mauritius began in 2015, with a casual meeting of Dr Upasana G Singh of UKZN and Mr Govin Appavoo of the Open University of Mauritius (OU). This collaboration was formalised with an MoU being signed by UKZN and OU in May 2016.
The Vice-Chancellor of UKZN, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, and the Director General of the OU Dr Kaviraj Sharma Sukon have been the cornerstones of this conference. They both took time off their busy schedules to participate actively in both days of this conference.
‘At eMIG 2017, 146 papers were submitted from eight countries which include the host countries of South Africa and Mauritius, as well as Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria and India. After a rigorous double blind review process 123 papers were accepted for presentation, on a range of topics within the Disciplines of Information Technology, Law, Management and Governance,’ said Singh.
The Mauritian Minister of IT, Communications and Innovation, Mr Yogida Sawmynadan, who was the chief guest at the opening ceremony, highlighted the journey that Mauritius has embarked on to leverage technology for teaching and learning in the past decade.
Like with all events of this nature, it has been both a challenging yet rewarding experience. As Appavoo stated in his welcome speech: ‘while the two institutions differ in many ways – one has a long history with over 50 000 students mostly on campus and the other one – relatively young with around 5 000 learners studying by the Open and Distance Learning mode, this has not prevented us from bringing our resources together to organise this inaugural event and thus foster collaboration’.
Beyond the traditional keynote addresses, paper presentations and plenary sessions, site visits to Ceridian, Oracle and the Board of Investment Mauritius were included in the programme to showcase some of the best practices in highly successful institutions in Mauritius. Thus the conference promoted academic excellence through research as well as the public-private partnership. The highlight of the conference was the magnificent Gala Dinner held under the open skies in the perfect beach setting.
Informal feedback received from delegates highlighted the success of this event. ‘It was truly well organised and very relevant topics were discussed,’ said Dr Sue Petratos from NMMU. Dr Amitava Basu, Centre for Environmental Management and Participatory Development, India said he ‘gathered new ideas and thoughts from the conference and enjoyed participating in the conference’. The keynote speaker, Professor C Thornhill, stated that ‘It was one of the best organised conferences I have attended. The timing was excellent and the presenters were well prepared’. Committee members Mrs Bellengere and Professor Phiri added that ‘it was exceptional in its diversity, expertise of speakers and arrangement of logistics. The sessions were engaging, thought-provoking and insightful… so welcoming in a real African style…We learnt a lot and so many want to collaborate with us. The PhD students were thrilled and were grateful that they could be given such an opportunity to co-present at an international conference.’
The eMIG conference is indebted to the OU and UKZN staff and organising committee members led by Appavoo and Singh for their professionalism and commitment to the project.
‘The take-home message of e-MIG 2017 is that more than talents, it is attitude that determines altitude,’ said Appavoo.
‘Following the success of this conference we are hoping to make eMIG a biennial event, and we hope that more of UKZN academics will participate as delegates in the future,’ said Singh.
The full programme, photos, selected speeches and presentations, testimonials and some video clips of the conference are available at http://e-mig2017.ukzn.ac.za/
Words: Upasana Singh