Global collective aims to demonstrate developing nations’ research capabilities with four collaborative projects

JohannesburgTangible action and projects have emerged from the most recent meeting of a collective of ICT researchers and academics dedicated to furthering ICT research, capacity building and advanced human capital development in developing nations.

Dubbed the BRICS Research Interest Group, encompassing nine research and academic institutions from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the workgroup was established late last year under the guidance of SAP Research Centre Pretoria.

Operating under the banner of the SAP Meraka Unit for Technology Development, this initiative dovetails with the Meraka Institute’s goals of facilitating national economic and social development through needs-based ICT research and innovation. The CSIR Meraka Institute is a unit of the CSIR, which focuses on information and communications technology research and development, for the benefit of society, science and industry.

“A lot of work has been done since the workgroup was established, and we’re proud to announce that we have committed to our first research project,” says Danie Kok, Director, SAP Research Centre Pretoria. “The flagship project is to develop a mobile business application platform, delivering business services to very small enterprises (VSEs) in emerging economies.”

First prototypes are already available in South Africa and will now be further researched, developed and tested in the other BRIC countries.

In support of this business service initiative, a mobile phone-based e-learning platform aimed at very small enterprises will also be developed.

Entrepreneurs, from spaza shop owners to plumbers, seldom have the basic knowledge needed to operate effectively, and we are therefore working on a simple, accessible and affordable platform to impart basic business skills.

“These ideas were developed in South Africa and have already resulted in the development of prototypes and a business application platform in collaboration with one of the leading mobile operators,” adds Kok.

The other projects identified by the workgroup include research into promoting household energy efficiency and an active researcher and lecture exchange programme between workgroup participants.

The first is a broad-ranging initiative that will kick off in 2011 and includes the investigation and development of household energy efficiency management tools, mobile phone-based smart metering systems and community-based electricity supply systems.

The researcher exchange programme is linked to the first project in the sense that we see this as a means for researchers from BRIC countries to visit SAP Research Centre Pretoria and work with the team here on refining the mobile business services and mobile e-learning project,” says Kok.

“This is very exciting for us as collaboration and co-operation is the basis for having established this workgroup. It would be amiss to not acknowledge the support of the National Department of Science and Technology provided to us through its involvement in the Meraka Institute. It’s also very gratifying to see government’s vision of the role that ICT can play in the economy being realised in this fashion.”

In order to promote project progress, the BRICS Research Interest Group has committed to delivering research outcomes at least every three months.


SAP is the world’s leading provider of business software(*), offering applications and services that enable companies of all sizes and in more than 25 industries to become best-run businesses. With more than 95 000 customers in over 120 countries, the company is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt stock exchange and NYSE, under the symbol “SAP”. For more information, visit http://www.sap.com.

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