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21 May 2019 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Stephen Collett
Digital storytelling
Collaborating for the common good are from left: Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, and Dr Johan van Zyl.

Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences quoted the Cat Stevens song I can’t keep it in, to capture the excitement surrounding the opening of a Digital Storytelling Lab on the Bloemfontein Campus on 10 May 2019.

After months of hard work by Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, as well as the staff of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Centre for Development Support, the Common Good First lab was completed just in time for the launch attended by about 50 delegates from other South African universities, as well as private and public institutions.

Stories meet technology

In a message, from Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement, informed the audience that the launch heralded the joining of the old world of stories with the new world of digital technology. Julie Adair, Director of Digital Collaboration at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, welcomed the UFS as a partner to this international social innovation collaborative project in a video message. 

Dr Van Rooyen, the project manager for the UFS, explained how she got involved in the Common Good First project, what the benefits of digital storytelling are, as well as what opportunities the lab creates for cooperation between role players involved in social innovation projects. 

Why the Common Good First lab?

The purpose of the lab is to create a digital network to identify, showcase and connect social innovation projects in South Africa to one another and to universities around the world for research, student engagement and learning and teaching. The lab has been fitted with state-of-the-art equipment for recording and digitising the stories that result from social innovation projects.

In a live Skype session with Dr Il-Haam Petersen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and some of the recent successes of the digital stories in Philippi in the Western Cape were shared.

Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, UFS Director Community Engagement did the final honours by cutting the ribbon, declaring the lab open, and sharing the dream that the work done in this lab will contribute to positive relationships and cooperation between the university and the community, in making not only the university, but the country and the world a better place.


News Archive

Unconventional oil and gas extraction – study for Water Research Commission reveals possible impacts
2014-11-05

 

Photo: Legalplanet.org
The Centre for Environmental Management (CEM) at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently completed a three-year project for the Water Research Commission. The purpose was to develop an interactive vulnerability map and monitoring framework for unconventional oil and gas extraction (final report still to be published).

Due to the complexity of this field, a number of participants across different disciplines and universities were involved in this trans-disciplinary study. Contributors included the Departments of Sociology, Physics and Mathematical Statistics from the UFS, the University of Pretoria Natural Hazard Centre, Africa, as well as the Institute of Marine and Environmental Law from the University of Cape Town.

Unconventional oil and gas extraction, its related impacts and the management of this activity to ensure environmental protection, is a controversial issue in many countries worldwide. Since the extraction of oil and gas using unconventional techniques is an unprecedented activity in South Africa, the project focused on understanding this extraction process as well as hydraulic fracturing and identifying possible environmental and socio-economic impacts associated with this activity in the South African context. An understanding of the possible impacts could aid government during the development of policy aimed at protecting the environment.

The researchers subsequently identified indicators to develop an interactive vulnerability map for unconventional oil and gas in South Africa. The vulnerability map focuses on specific mapping themes, which include surface water, groundwater, vegetation, seismicity and socio-economics. In addition, the map provides information on the vulnerability of the specified mapping themes to unconventional gas extraction on a regional scale. This map is intended as a reconnaissance tool to inform decision-makers on areas where additional detail field work and assessments may be required. It can also be used during Environmental Impact Assessments and determining licensing conditions.

Lastly, a monitoring framework was developed, which describes monitoring requirements for specific entities – surface water, groundwater, vegetation, seismicity and socio-economics – for the different phases of unconventional oil and gas extraction. Such monitoring is an important part of environmental protection. It is especially important for South Africa to perform baseline monitoring before exploration starts to ensure that we will have reference conditions to identify what impact oil and gas extraction activities has on the biophysical and socio-economic environments.


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