IFIP moves into engagement mode at General Assembly

The International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) is set to become more interactive and valuable for its member societies and their members around the world.

So says Moira de Roche, Vice-president of IFIP, Chair of IFIP IP3, and past President and Fellow of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA).

De Roche was speaking after attending the IFIP General Assembly in France. The South African delegation to the event also included IITPSA President Admire Gwanzura as an observer, Paula Kotze – Chair of the IFIP Technical Committee (TC) 13 on Human-Computer Interaction and IFIP Fellow, and Dr Jackie Phahlamohlaka, IITPSA’s representative to the IFIP General Assembly and TC9 on ICT and Society, and an Honorary Fellow of the IITPSA.

De Roche says the global body is moving to become more engaging, with more open discussion among member bodies and is seeking to provide more value to their members.

IITPSA is the South African country member of IFIP, which is recognised as the leading international organisation for ICT and the sciences. Established in 1960 under the auspices of UNESCO, IFIP represents societies from 56 countries and regions around the world, with over 500,000 members and 101 working groups reporting to 13 technical committees.  Numerous IITPSA members are representatives on various IFIP Technical Committees and Working Groups.

De Roche says the latest General Assembly, with input from incoming President Anthony Wong, set the scene for the body to become more outward looking and interactive. “This year, instead of the usual reports, some sessions were more interactive, with IFIP asking member societies what it could do for them, and what they could do in return. This worked very well,” she says. “IFIP took a similar approach to discussions around nominations for IFIP Fellowship.”

De Roche says IFIP aims to become more relevant and known to a broader audience. “We have such a wealth of knowledge and research, and we need to be taking it to governments and other organisations around the world. We need to be packaging the enormous value of the IFIP Technical Committees and their working groups so that it is accessible to those outside of IFIP and its member bodies,” she says.

IFIP is developing partnerships with other international organisations. A partnership with ITUs AI for Good was also announced at the General Assembly.

De Roche says that while South Africa is well represented in IFIP and its Technical Committees and working groups, members of the South African country representative body may not be aware of all the benefits of their affiliation with IFIP. The Federation offers a wealth of resources, including research papers, and members of affiliate bodies may also apply to publish their papers on a global stage via IFIP.

“South Africa stands up well in IFIP – we are well represented on IFIP’s Technical Committees and working groups. We have the status we need, but we just need to make more of that,” De Roche says. She hopes to see more nominations emerging for South Africans to achieve the status of IFIP Fellow, and more IITPSA members taking advantage of the IFIP body of work and research papers.

IITPSA President Admire Gwanzura, who attended the General Assembly for the first time, says he was struck by two key observations: “South Africa’s IT sector is on par with its global counterparts; and local industry and academia are managing to forge closer ties than we see in many other countries.”

“I noticed that the sector’s challenges are similar around the world, but that South Africa has progressed and is now at the same level as most developed countries in many respects.”

One challenge raised by many countries was a disconnect between industry and academia, Gwanzura says. “In South Africa, we have made good progress in working together, as is evidenced by IITPSA’s sponsorship of academics within the IFIP Technical Committees. Among other things, this support will see them contributing to IFIP’s new digital framework for education, which will be submitted to the UN in five months’ time. Our close ties with IFIP also informed the updated IITPSA code of ethics, which was developed by IFIP Technical Committees and represents global best practice,” he says.

He notes that the outputs of the research carried out by these academics benefits IITPSA members and the industry as a whole, illustrating the value of close collaboration between industry and academia.