College of Economic & Management Sciences

Integrating transport and other local services with digital solutions

Harry Bopape (Director: Research Support) and Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation) congratulate Prof Ciné van Zyl (CEMS) (centre) on her membership of the 2019 Unisa Million Rand Club.

Prof Ciné van Zyl, from the Department of Applied Management in the College of Economic and Management Sciences (CEMS), is the recipient of a 2019 Million Rand Club Award at Unisa’s 2020 Research & Innovation Awards. Her membership of this high-status club is a result of her research grant from Erasmus+, a European Union (EU) programme that supports, among others, education, training, research, networking, and youth and sports development. It also provides opportunities for individuals and organisations, as partnering members, to study, train, gain experience and do volunteer work abroad.

The grant, which runs from 2019 to 2021, is for the Programme Staff Mobility Agreement (teaching and training), entered into between Unisa and the University of West Attica (UNWA) in Greece.

According to Van Zyl, she had to write a strong motivation as part of her grant application, substantiating her selection of a partnering host country with which to enter into an exchange. Apart from her success in obtaining the grant, she has been elected to serve as the editor of the Springer Nature (Switzerland) Conference Proceedings in Business and Economics.

Van Zyl described the nomination and awards ceremony at Gallagher Estate as one of the highlights of her career. "Receiving recognition for all the work that went into making the grant possible made it even more rewarding, especially since it means that we can bring international expertise to Unisa, to give us insight into what is being done abroad."

As part of the programme, Prof Vicky Katsoni, from UNWA, visited Unisa towards the end of January 2020 for academic and research purposes, presenting a public lecture entitled "Digital storytelling in tourism". Van Zyl and Katsoni discussed the possibilities of strengthening ties by collaborating on the education and research practices of their respective institutions.

The terms of this exchange allow Van Zyl to present a keynote address at the 7th International Tourism Conference, set to take place from 17 to 19 June on Hydra Island, in Greece. The theme of the conference, co-hosted by the International Association of Cultural and Digital Tourism (IACuDiT), is "Culture and tourism in a smart, globalized and sustainable world". This topic aligns directly with Van Zyl’s main research focus area, which is transport, smart cities and tourism.

Smart cities such as New York, London and Seoul use digital technologies and sustainable development to improve the quality of life and efficiency of urban operations.

In her research, Van Zyl prefers to focus on creative topics and the latest trends. As she explained it, integrating transport and other local services with digital solutions is what makes cities "smart" by global standards. Smart cities such as New York, London and Seoul use digital technologies and sustainable development to improve the quality of life and efficiency of urban operations. Research indicates that rolling out 5G infrastructure is a key enabler for smart cities, and, in her view, this cannot happen soon enough.

Prof Ciné van Zyl (CEMS)

When questioned about how her research will benefit the community, Van Zyl responded that South Africa currently does not have a fully smart city: "There are perhaps constraints holding us back. Establishing what these are will enable developers and entrepreneurs to capitalise on the research and hopefully overcome these constraints, to move a certain city towards becoming a smart city. Smart cities are the most efficient and potentially the most sustainable way to live. The community of the future will enjoy a better quality of life," she clarified.

Thanks to the aforementioned agreement, students with an interest in the research topic will now have an additional source to consult and could, potentially, further their studies in this field.

"Pursue research that is meaningful and can make a difference, whether it is in their own lives or those of others." | Ciné van Zyl

Van Zyl wished to acknowledge the many people who contributed to her achievement, such as her colleagues at Unisa, international and national institutions, and her family and friends. "It would not have been possible without the help of Prof Marios Soteriades from the Hellenic Mediterranean University, who joined Unisa as a visiting professor in 2013. He paved the way and opened doors for international research collaboration, in addition to publishing and mentoring young academics in the Department of Applied Management," Van Zyl explained.

According to Van Zyl, her academic journey helped her to improve her research, allowing her to gain insights from diverse people about which skills and methodologies to use, and become a supervisor with whom students enjoy working. "I would encourage people to pursue research that is meaningful and can make a difference, whether it is in their own lives or those of others. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you played a role in helping others," she concluded.

* By Ilze Crous, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Economic and Management Sciences

Publish date: 2020/03/20