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The Centre of Excellence in Distributed Multimedia at Rhodes University

Since 1997, the department of Computer Science hosts a Telkom Centre of Excellence, which focuses on distributed multimedia. The Centre brings together the research expertise within the department, contributions from other departments at Rhodes University and at other tertiary institutions (both nationally and internationally), and input from industry partners. The Centre is a good example of triple helix at work, where academia, industry and government come together to pool resources and improve the competiveness of the industry, via the preparation of highly skilled practitioners and the co-development of appropriate technology. The Centre is supported by Telkom - the anchor partner, Tellabs, Stortech, Easttel, Bright Ideas Project 39, and both the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) - through THRIP - and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The Centre operates under the management of a joint academic/industry steering committee, and has high level representation from the partner industries and from the DTI through the National Research Foundation. The Centre is headed by Prof Alfredo Terzoli, in collaboration with Prof Peter Wentworth. Ms Ingrid Siebörger works for the Centre and provides invaluable help.

The current funding cycle of 3 years, starting in 2011, is aimed at extending the Distributed Service Platform developed in the previous cycle, to create appropriate support for mobile devices in terms of fast mobile service development and deployment as well as introduction of standard and protocols for easy connection of mobile devices to the platform. The end-points for experimentation are often located in a real-life test-bed network, which was started over ten years ago and was kept up-to-date by continuous technology upgrades. The test-bed includes most current network transport technologies - ISDN, ATM, FIREWIRE, ADSL, WIFI, WiMAX and VSAT - interconnected by an Ethernet fabric supporting IP.

The Telkom Centre of Excellence National Programme

What is it? Telkom's Centres of Excellence (CoE) Programme is a collaboration between Telkom, the telecommunications industry and the South African government to promote a culture of excellence in research in information and communication technology, and to provide facilities to encourage young scientists and engineers to pursue their interests in South Africa.

Launched in 1997, the CoE programme is growing local telecommunications and information technology skills, is yielding substantial benefits for the universities and technikons involved, and is helping Telkom its development partners to solve technical problems and reduce costs. Rhodes University's center was one of the first to be recognised formally by the programme.

The CoEs are jointly funded by Telkom, telecommunications players in the private sector, and the Department of Trade and Industry - through its Technology and Human Resource for Industry Programme (THRIP). There are currently 16 CoEs, located at tertiary institutions around the country. In addition to developing skills in science, engineering and technology, the centres are aimed at creating partnerships between historically disadvantaged and advantaged institutions. The institutions are paired; with a previously disadvantaged and an advantaged institution sharing a CoE in which to jointly focus on a specific aspect of telecommunications research. This provides for the transfer of skills and the upliftment of the previously disadvantaged institution.

Skills retention for South Africa is also a significant benefit of the programme. Many talented post-graduate students are attracted to opportunities overseas, and the CoE programme is demonstrating that they don't have to leave SA to do exciting work.

Programme Aims:

Key aims and objectives of these centres, located within existing education institutions in the country, are to:

  • Strive for excellence in a focused telecommunications technology area;
  • Enhance expertise and research capacity in the field of information and communications technology, with emphasis on black empowerment;
  • Form research and development partnerships between Research institutions, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies, industry, and government;
  • Strive to meet the increasing demand for engineers and IT experts;
  • Transfer expertise and technology into and from Universities;
  • Form cooperative research partnerships.

Programme Partnerships:

Centres of Excellence are based on:

Programme Governance and Management:

Centres of Excellence are governed by steering committees comprising all stakeholders to implement financial control and evaluate progress on a quarterly basis. An annual review of the projects and financial status is conducted by the steering committees. Financial statements are audited.

Daily management of the Centres falls to a Head, who is appointed by the Steering Committee, and who is a full-time member of the academic or research staff at the host institution. The CoE Head is frequently assisted by a coordinator or administrative assistant, and, where the CoE comprises more than one unit, by Unit Heads.

For information on the Rhodes CoE Steering Committee, click here.

Programme Funding:

The funds of Telkom and Other Industry Partners are matched by a programme of the Department of Trade and Industry - the Technology and Human Resource for Industry Programme (THRIP). Telkom's annual contribution to the CoE programmes currently amount to R4 million, but leverages R16 million for Education institutions.

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The Centre of Excellence programme funds expenses related to: computer hardware; research equipment; software; running expenses of the CoE; external consultants; technical assistants; visiting professors aimed at the transfer of skills.

The Centre of Excellence programme does not support the following costs:

  • Top up of supervising staff salaries at higher education institutions;
  • Bursaries for students;
  • Accomodation and physical infrastructure at higher education institutions;
  • Any other costs that do not attract 1:1 matching funds from THRIP.


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Last Modified: Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:45:43 SAST