NMU tech centre head promoted to distinguished professor
Nelson Mandela University’s director of the Centre for Community Technologies (CCT) Darelle van Greunen has been promoted to distinguished professor.
She has also been awarded an extraordinary professorship by the North-West University’s Optentia Research Centre.
With more than 20 years at NMU, Van Greunen is recognised as an innovative leader in ICT, spearheading the development of apps for the advancement of education, health and social development, particularly in low-income communities.
The distinguished professor title is awarded to professors who are highly regarded as leaders in their field of study.
“It is a privilege to be in service of society and to live the dream of Nelson Mandela University.
“As I take on this new role, I will continue to strive to find innovations that will benefit the people of our continent,” she said.
Van Greunen and the university’s CCT team recently developed several apps offering health-related solutions.
The team on Thursday conducted training sessions for one of the apps, DigiTB, with health-care workers in Wells Estate, to help them better assist patients.
The DigiTB app, launched in 2019, is designed to map the incidence and spread of TB, monitor treatment adherence and assist health-care workers to provide accurate information to patients.
It precedes the CCT’s various innovative apps that offer practical solutions to health problems faced by disadvantaged communities.
In 2020, the team launched KaziHealth, a mobile app designed to improve the health of teachers.
The app includes a comprehensive health risk assessment, a personalised health profile, lifestyle coaching sessions focusing on physical activity, diet and nutrition, and stress and sleep management interventions to improve cardiovascular health.
Another app, Carebuddy, was developed as a daily screening tool for schools and other large organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
By October, it had been embraced by more that 4,500 Eastern Cape schools and adopted by the department of education.
Over the past five years, Van Greunen and her team of researchers have won various awards and international acknowledgment for their ground-breaking research and application development within the African context and thus realising her vision of “ICT solutions for Africa, by Africans, in Africa”.
Van Greunen is a 2020 African Innovation Forum Award recipient from the United Nations Economic Forum, an honorary professor as awarded by Amity University, India, in recognition of her contribution to ICT in society, a Lifetime Fellow of the Discovery Foundation for rural health innovation and a finalist for the 2020 Commonwealth Digital Health Awards, among a string of achievements.
She obtained her PhD from the University of South Africa in 2010 and was promoted to full professor in 2012.
“I am humbled by the recognition of being promoted to distinguished professor. I am privileged to be paid to live my passion,” she said.
“The appointment as an extraordinary professor at a partner institution’s prestigious research centre presents new opportunities for collaboration and innovation to benefit the people of the African continent,” she said.
Van Greunen said the CCT would focus on creating apps that offered solutions to cancer-related challenges in 2021.
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