Keynote Speaker

Dr Sandile Mbatha

Senior Manager for Research and Policy Advocacy Department in eThekwini Municipality

Dr Sandile Mbatha is the Senior Manager for Research and Policy Advocacy Department in eThekwini Municipality where he supports evidence-based policy development process through city-wide research and strategic planning. He is responsible for driving integrated city-level data processes for strategic decision-making. As part of this work, he is establishing strategic partnerships for building an inclusive data ecosystem necessary for supporting a data-driven city. He is also part of the team using a data-centred approach towards SDG institutionalization and indicator localization.

He is a former Director and founder of Ulwazi NS Research Consulting, an organisation focused on human-centric solutions to human settlements; informal land markets; urban planning; local economic development; water; food and energy issues in urban and peri-urban contexts. He holds a PhD in Architecture and Town Planning from the University of Stuttgart, with a focus on informal transactions in low income housing in South Africa. He has more than a decade of working with public and non-governmental sector through developing and implementing programmes for low income urban and peri-urban communities. He has also participated in various urban development programmes aimed at fostering development partnerships between the municipality and communities, particularly conducting research on urban renewal and driving stakeholder coordination and engagement. He also has vast experience as consultant across various sectors locally and internationally. He has held numerous fellowships which include the 2017/18 Academy for African Urban Diversity cohort, 2019 International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP); MGG Digital Academy Fellow 2021. He has also worked at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a lecturer and has also served as an external examiner for postgraduate projects within the Built Environment and Development space.


Nobubele Angel Shozi

Senior Software Developer and Researcher (DIRISA)

Nobubele Angel Shozi is currently a Senior Software Developer and Researcher at the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA). She holds a Master’s Degree in Information Technology that she received from the Nelson Mandela University (NMU). She is currently pursuing her PhD in Computer Science at the University of South Africa (UNISA). Her current research interests lie in Data Privacy, Social media and Cyber-security. Nobubele has published a number of research articles and presented these in local and international conferences.

Dr Anwar Vahed

Director of the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA)

Dr Anwar Vahed is the director of the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA). He manages the implementation of a national research data infrastructure that supports data intensive research, and coordinates the development of relevant expertise and strategies, as well as the
implementation of policies for research data management. DIRISA, together with the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and the South African Research Network (SANReN), comprises the
technology component of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System of South Africa.

Anwar’s professional career spans leadership, managerial and capacity development roles in diverse academic, research and production ICT environments. He is a computer scientist with more than 20 years’ experience in academia, and in research and development in the fields of data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, artificial neural networks and research data management. He was Principal Researcher and the Research Group Leader of the ICT for Earth Observation Research Group at the CSIR and prior to joining the CSIR, he managed the data and information delivery systems of Statistics SA, and chaired the Department of Computer Science at the University of the Western Cape.

He has developed the national strategy for research Big Data, is editor of data science journals and serves on several local and international committees in the data sciences, including the Research Data Alliance (RDA), US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and CODATA.

Dr Happy Sithole

Centre Manager: National Integrated Cyber-Infrastructure System (NICIS), South Africa

Dr Happy Sithole is the Centre Manager for the South African cyberinfrastructure (CI) system, NICIS since 2019. He is responsible for the coordination of this system so that it meets the demands of the South African National System of Innovation, in support of the Department of Science and Innovation. This involves the three main entities of the CI, Centre for High-Performance Computing (CHPC), South African National Research Network (SANReN), Data Intensive Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA).

Prior to becoming the CI centre manager, Sithole spent 12 years as the director of the Centre for High Performance Computing. He completed his PhD in materials science, focusing on electronic and atomistic simulation of iron sulphides, at the University of Limpopo, where he also lectured for nine years. He has applied high-performance computing to solve problems in mining industries and nuclear power plant designs, such as at his time at the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. Sithole also sits on the steering committees of high-performance computing meetings in Germany, Russia and Singapore. He was the Chairperson of the ICT Committee of the National Library Board and is currently a board member at the Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Safety and Security (CNSS) in South Africa.


Dr Jan van Niekerk

Executive: Data and Analytics (Mac Consulting)

Dr Jan has spent the last 10 years across a number of industries and verticals building, developing and implementing digital transformation and data-driven solutions across a range of organisations. Jan’s technical expertise, coupled with his acute business acumen enables him to analyse complex problems and to effectively communicate them in a concise manner.

Jan is an entrepreneur at heart. He has been involved in a number of very successful startups where he has lead technical and data-driven teams to build disruptive technologies and solutions across the globe.

He is a passionate Data Scientist that loves turning complex data problems into insightful and robust solutions which empower organisations to make (better) informed data driven decisions. Jan’s cross domain expertise in data analysis, software development and entrepreneurship enables him to think out of the box, challenging the status quo to develop the organisation of tomorrow, today.

Lameck Mbangula Amugongo

Lecturer: Faculty of Computing and Informatics (Namibia University of Science and Technology)

Lameck Mbangula Amugongo has over 8 years of experience in the field of Information Technology and Innovation. Previously, he worked as a business intelligence (BI) analyst at Telecom Namibia. Lameck is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Computing and Informatics at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). Lameck is a highly motivated and diligent individual with a strong passion for technology and innovation. From 2013-2019, he co-led the local Google Developers Group (GDG) & Developers circles from Facebook Windhoek. As a co-lead, his role involved organising technology talks, hackathons, and coding training across Namibia.

He holds a B.IT: Software Engineering, BSc (Hon) Computer Science ‘Cum Laude’ and MSc in Computer Science. In 2015, Lameck was selected as one of 100 Brightest Young Minds by Brightest Young Minds (BYM) and was also awarded the youth innovator award by National Commission on Research, Science & Technology (NCRST) for his research project “Open Data Portal for Namibia”.

He is currently completing a PhD in Cancer Sciences at the University of Manchester, applying big data techniques to analyse medical images to personalise treatment for lung cancer patients.

Mkhuseli Mthukwane

Vice President of Data Science at the ABSA Group’s Internal Audit.

Mkhuseli is an seasoned data scientist that has worked in the fields of Robotics & AI, Law and Actuarial Science. He is a machine learning practitioner with a wealth of experience in the adoption of data science in many fields. Throughout the years he has had a hand in innovative break-through’s in all these fields, most notably creating one of the first applications of AI for South African Case Law. He has taught at Data Science workshops, consulted for some of the leading Actuaries in the country and created the world’s first front-end interface environment for R Packages. Mkhuseli is currently Vice President of Data Science at the ABSA Group’s Internal Audit.

Nontembeko Dudeni

Statistician: Data Science Research Group of the CSIR

Nontembeko Dudeni-Tlhone is a Statistician within a Data Science Research Group of the CSIR. She has over 15 years of experience in data analysis and statistical modelling work that seeks to enable decision making across various domains such as spatial planning, transport, health, natural environment and energy. Her research interests involve modelling and analysis of high-dimensional sensor data collected over time.