College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Improving technologies to better human lives

"Computing software is at the core of all technologies used by humans today and a lack of quality in software can lead to life-threatening disasters; therefore, quality software has an inevitable impact on our lives as humans," says Prof Ernest Mnkandla, a National Research Foundation (NRF) C2-rated researcher who is the Director of Unisa’s School of Computing in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET).

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation) and Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor) congratulate Prof Ernest Mnkandla (CSET) (centre) on his 2020 NRF C2 Rating.

Born and bred in the City of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Mnkandla, who started his academic career two decades ago, does not approach life through a specific role model. He sets his goals by carefully considering the principles and characteristics of people who have been successful and effective in what he wants to achieve.

Prof Ernest Mnkandla (Director: School of Computing) is an NRF C2-rated researcher who describes his research successes in three words: Quality, innovative and inspiring.

In 1997, he started his journey by lecturing to electronic engineering students after obtaining his MSc in Computer Science at the Zimbabwe National University of Science & Technology. He then moved into lecturing computing and has been in this area for more than 18 years. "I have taught most subject areas in electronic engineering, computer science, information technology and information systems," he says.

He worked as a senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Information Systems at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and his journey with Unisa started in 2012 as an associate professor. To date, Mnkandla has supervised 18 MSc students and 8 PhD students to completion.

"I believe that if we manage to improve the quality of software development at an individual developer’s level using contemporary relevant practices and technologies based on proven engineering principles, we can attain excellence in producing quality software products."

As a qualified engineer, a proud lecturer and holder of an MEd in open and distance learning from Unisa, he is proficient in both face-to-face and online teaching and training. "I lecture and coach people in disciplined approaches to the development of quality software," says Mnkandla, who completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 2008.

His research focuses on ways to improve software quality in software development projects using contemporary technologies or environments such as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the Internet of things (IoT), big data, data science, machine learning and cloud computing. In addition, Mnkandla says "I would like to find better ways to apply ethics principles to the development of these technologies." He intends on improving the quality of software through the application of contemporary approaches and artificial intelligence.

Recognised as an NRF C2-rated researcher at Unisa’s 2020 Research & Innovation Awards, Mnkandla feels humbled and honoured to receive such recognition. "It means that I have a clear research focus and it gives me impetus to tackle our society’s problems and provide computing solutions where it’s relevant," he says.

Besides the seeding fund, he says, "the recognition establishes one as an expert in this area and allows me to link with peers locally and internationally to engage in valuable academic discourse."

Mnkandla plans to build a critical mass of researchers who focus on artificial intelligence technologies for improving human lives through the development of quality software. In the meantime, he says: "Giving career guidance in information technology (IT) related careers is another deep passion of mine."

In conclusion, Mnkandla describes his research successes in three words: Quality, innovative and inspiring.

* By Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Software foul-ups, bleeps and blunders

Publish date: 2020/08/20