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01 August 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Anja Aucamp
Jaco Marais, Programme Director, and Dr Eduan Kotzé
Jaco Marais, Programme Director, and Dr Eduan Kotzé, Academic Head of the Department of Computer Science and Informatics. Dr Kotzé believes the partnership with IoT.nxt will expose UFS staff and students to new and creative ways of thinking.

UFS information technology students will get exposure to the very latest developments in data science, after a recent exciting partnership was announced between the university and Internet of Things company, IoT.nxt – described by CNBC Africa as “a world leader in technological innovations.”

“The partnership with IoT.nxt will open new opportunities for our students and staff, not only to work with one of the most innovative companies in the country, but also to be exposed to new and creative ways of thinking, all in preparation for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR),” says Dr Eduan Kotzé, Academic Head of the UFS Department of Computer Science and Informatics.

“We also believe the partnership will strengthen our academic programme, especially in data science, and prepare our students to be ready for the ever-changing world of technology.”

He explains that it is a huge task to stay at the forefront of technological development. “IoT.nxt's involvement will help us to continually expose our students to trendsetting technologies that is applicable in the industry. It will also ensure that our graduates have the neccessary skills when they enter the job market. In doing so, our curriculum will remain relevant and keep up with new developments in the IT industry,” says Dr Kotzé.

UFS IT excellence

The Department of Computer Science and Informatics at the University of the Free State is widely regarded as one of the best IT departments at a tertiary institution in South Africa. Dr Kotzé believes the fact that we are one of only a few universities who present data science as an undergraduate qualification, followed by an honours qualification, provides us with a competitive edge and differentiates us from other institutions.

“We are also the only university offering a Bachelors Degree in Computer Information Systems aiming to deliver entrepreneurship in technology to make South Africa a role player in the IT industry,” says Dr Kotzé.

Job-ready graduates

He believes the planned short courses will expose students to the latest technology. He is also convinced that the opportunity to become accustomed to the workings of a successful IT company through holiday work, will have a very positive impact on the job readiness of the department’s graduates.

“Because of the pace at which technology is evolving, it is crucial that anyone in the IT industry is already in contact with industry entities that are at the top of the wave, such as IoT.nxt,” says Dr Kotzé.

According to Nico Steyn, IoT.nxt CEO, the support of education drives in the field of technology has been a key focus of his company. Steyn says IoT.nxt selected the UFS for this partnership because it views the university as one of the leading education institutions in this field. There are also UFS graduates among the co-founders.

Direct contact with pioneers

Steyn believes that there is an industry-wide shortage of qualified people in South Africa, and a growing demand for students to graduate with a qualification that meets the requirements of businesses. “Our company, and the vibrant broader technology industry in South Africa, needs such graduates. Through our partnership with the UFS, we will aim to drive interest in this career,” Steyn says.

The partnership with IoT.nxt is one of several industry partnerships that have been entered into by the UFS Department of Computer Science and Informatics over the past few years. “In the IT industry, it is crucial that our curriculum is constantly adapted to remain relevant in a rapidly changing landscape. The relevant skills are determined by the industry and it is therefore a huge advantage to have direct contact with pioneers in that sector,” says Dr Kotzé.

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