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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

UFS implements paperless meeting system
2004-08-20

 

The Management Committee of the University of the Free State ’s (UFS) Executive Management recently entered the electronic environment of more effective and centralised meeting and decision-making administration by implementing ‘n computerised meeting system.

With this the UFS became the first higher education institution in the world to use the PARNASSUS-meeting management system. PARNASSUS , which refers to a mountain in the Greek mythology, is a licensed system from CIPAL in Belguim – a developer of software for a variety of applications.

“In stead of coming to a weekly management meeting with a file of documentation, each member now walks in with his/her laptop and the whole meeting procedure takes place electronically,” says Prof Sakkie Steyn, Registrar: General at the UFS.

At the same time the secretary registers the minutes point by point on the PARNASSUS programme. At the end of the meeting, after certain technical finishes are done, the minutes are distributed to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers. The draft minutes is also distributed to those who must implement decisions and prepare implementation steps. These staff members are given security clearance beforehand.

“The system is unique due to the fact that a translation engine has been built into the agenda and minute system. Agenda items can be submitted in Afrikaans and then automatically be translated in English by means of the interactive translation engine, or vice versa. The same principle applies to the minutes,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the translation engine was develop with the expert assistance of the UFS’s Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment (ULFE). Word strings from previous minutes are now being added to the corpus of the translation engine.

“The system enables the secretary to continuously monitor which points are submitted for the agenda and if these points comply with the set standards namely clear recommendations, background and proposed implementation steps. The agenda is closed at a certain moment and no new points can then be added. The secretary does certain technical finished by means of a final classification of point and annexures. The draft agenda is then sent to the chairperson for approval, after which the agenda is electronically sent to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers for preparation,” says Prof Steyn.

“After the minutes have been approved at the next meeting, it is saved on the PARNASSUS decisions data base. The tracing of decisions made during previous meetings can be done by any person with the necessary security clearance. This is different from the past where stacks of documents had to be searched to find a decision,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the secretariat and meeting administration services at the UFS has now entered a fully virtual and electronic environment. This will enhance effective decision making tremendously. “The PARNASSUS system saves us costs and time and the decentralisation of submissions to meetings lessens the work at centralised points,” says Prof Steyn.

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