The world we live in today is being shaped and re-shaped by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the blending of innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things, among other cutting-edge technologies.
In line with the University of Johannesburg’s commitment and championing of 4IR, the Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS), one of UJ’s flagship institutes is heavily invested in Data Science in an age where 4IR has permitted data to burgeon. However, this explosion of data needs to be handled responsibly by not only UJ’s constituents, but also broader societal players. Hence, the IIS has launched the multi-disciplinary Centre for Data Ethics (CDE), which will be actively involved in the teaching of data and research ethics.
The Centre plans to offer a term-long multi-disciplinary module on data ethics and research ethics, which will be offered at the postgraduate level, across the university’s different Faculties and College. Short-Learning Programmes (SLPs) will also be offered and targeted at broader society organisations that work with data, especially in light of the POPI Act.
In addition to the SLPs, the CDE will also provide commissioned advice to algorithm designers to assist them to fully appreciate good ethical practices in the design, handling and processing of data sets.
The CDE will be headed by Prof Tapiwa Chagonda who holds a PhD in Sociology and a Certificate of Competence in Research Ethics which was awarded by the Steve Biko Bioethics Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is the current interim chairperson of the UJ’s Faculty of Humanities Research Ethics Committee, in addition to being a highly passionate teacher, who won the 2020 Faculty of Humanities Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award.
The importance of data ethics will also be shared with the broader academy through regular CDE webinars, conferences, and symposia, which will focus on different facets of good data ethics practices. CDE will contribute towards the rigorous production and dissemination of knowledge in areas aligned to data ethics that include artificial intelligence, policy formulation for data ethics and effects of data on society.