Heloise Henning Emdon

2021 Distinguished Alumni Awardee, Heloise Henning Emdon
2021 Distinguished Alumni Awardee, Heloise Henning Emdon

Heloise Henning Emdon joined Rhodes University in 1976 to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Studies and Philosophy. As fate would have it, her activism was quickly sparked by the nature of the South African political landscape at the time. As a student during the 1976 South African context Heloise became grounded in the student community movement that included reporting on and fearlessly being engaged in the student formations that advocated against the forced removals in the Eastern Cape. She also got engaged in the SRC organised volunteer programme to tutor township learners and she met them in Fingo Village where they lived although this was not only risky but illegal at the time. Rhodes University did not only provide a foundation of formal knowledge for Heloise but also seeded in her a deep sense of commitment to social justice.

Soon after completing her undergraduate degree in 1980 Heloise joined the CSIR as the Liaison Officer responsible for coordinating co-operative scientific programmes and issues related to freshwater ecosystems. Between 1984-1990 Heloise moved into journalism and made her career in political and economic journalism at the time when apartheid was being challenged from all fronts. She worked for Beeld, South African Press Association as a reporter for parliament, then Business Day, and eventually a small independent magazine Cross Times. It was during this period that Heloise experienced the relentless power of the media and seized the opportunity to amplify the voices of the voiceless.

In 1990, equipped with her media experience Heloise sought to work in development and joined the Development Bank of Southern Africa where she found herself enmeshed in the reconstruction process. During this time, she worked closely with the communities such as supporting Bushbuckridge Radio and working with telecom regulators in Southern Africa in their quest for providing universal services and access. As a telecommunications specialist at the Development Bank Heloise gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in understanding the African context, in particular the institutional barriers to regulations and infrastructure that could hamper the efforts to bridge the digital divide on the continent.

Between January 2002 and October 2012 Heloise joined the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) where she quickly moved up the ranks from the position of Program Officer & Specialist in their South African satellite Office in Johannesburg to being a Program Manager: Acacia and Connectivity Africa and for and for Innovation for Inclusive Development in Ottawa, Canada; Heloise championed the mechanisms that helped program teams focus on regulatory and infrastructure issues to integrate ICTs into governance, education, health, economic, social, and cultural development. She recognised the urgent need to facilitate the networking of researchers across Africa to tackle telecommunication regulations, electronic medical records, university connectivity, as well as connectivity in rural and remote communities. Through her active participation and engagement several networks were seeded and have continue to evolve into sustained organisations, notably Research ICT Africa, UbuntuNet Alliance and Open MRS. 

In her current position as Manager for Internationally Sponsored Research Projects Heloise has significantly improved the reach of Carleton University’s internalisation through securing multi-year sponsored scholarships that enable African PhD scholars to benefit from the university research programs and research placements. Heloise is an international facilitator supporting researchers to he global players, and who has not forgotten her roots and continues to work tirelessly to ensure that Africa benefits from the various networks that she has established across the globe over the years.

Heloise also holds a Master of Arts degree in Development Studies from the University of Witwatersrand and a Postgraduate Diploma, Policy and Program Evaluation from Carleton University, Canada.  She has not only written extensively but has also published papers on the topic of ICT and Development. She is a Non-Executive Director, Tertiary and Research Networks of Southern Africa (TENET) and a member of the Canadian Evaluation Society and National Council of University Research Administrators, Washington, DC, USA. Heloise also works with various charities, community development centres, a historically disadvantaged university in South Africa to provide evaluation to support student services, research capacity development as well as facilitating workshops on various social justice matters.