SAICSIT honours Prof Brown

21 Sep 2020
21 Sep 2020

Irwin Brown
In a virtual award ceremony this month, the South African Institute for Computer Scientists and Information Technologists (SAICSIT) awarded the Pioneer Award to the School of IT’s Professor Irwin Brown in recognition of his pioneering work in promoting Information Systems as an academic discipline in South Africa.

SAICSIT brings together academics and practitioners from across the computing spectrum to promote the computing disciplines in South Africa. It aims to enhance research and development collaboration with other professional bodies; support education and training; seek solutions to technical and socio-economic problems in South Africa by means of research and development projects; and strives for professionalism and excellence.

Prof Brown’s involvement with SAICSIT began in 2004 when he submitted research papers to the annual SAICSIT conference. He has since then regularly contributed papers, and from 2007 to 2018 was a member of the SAICSIT Council. He served as President from 2011 to 2012, and as Vice President from 2016 to 2018.

“Information Systems (IS) is concerned primarily with information and systems, as the name implies,” says Brown. “An IS works with data to create information meaningful for purposeful activity. It is not just a technical discipline but is concerned with the social world as much as the technological. It is about using information technology to help address organisational and societal problems.”

Brown’s work has promoted the role that information systems play in organisations and society and how it can be instrumental in making a lasting impact in Africa.

“Information Systems as a discipline is still inadequately understood. When a high school student applies to study computing at university, information systems is often not initially considered.”

The Pioneer Award held special significance for Brown as his PhD supervisor, Dewald Roode, was one of the first recipients of the award in 2009.  “He was known as the father of IS research in South Africa,” says Brown of his mentor. In addition, another mentor, Derek Smith, the founding Head of the Department Information Systems at UCT, was also a recipient in 2012.

About Irwin Brown

Irwin Brown is Head of Department and Professor of Information Systems (IS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). He was Director of the UCT Centre for IT and National Development in Africa (CITANDA) from 2008 to 2012 and has been Convener of the highly successful UCT IS PhD programme. He obtained a BScEngHons (Electrical) degree from University of Zimbabwe (1985-1988), a MInfSys (1994-1995) degree from Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and a PhD from UCT (2001-2005).  Irwin began his IS academic career as a Sessional Academic at Curtin University (1995-1998), before taking up a position as lecturer at the Polytechnic of Namibia (1999-2000). In July 2000 he joined UCT as a lecturer, becoming a full professor as from 2011.

Having been born in Zimbabwe and having lived in Southern Africa for the most part (apart from a 6-year period in Australia), Brown has developed a strong interest in IS in the African context. He maintains a broad interest in all areas of IS research, but with a specific focus on understanding and theorising IS phenomena in the contextual conditions of Africa.

Brown has contributed to over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, and more than 70 peer-reviewed conference papers, some of these being highly cited publications (> 3,400 citations, h-index = 28 in Google Scholar as at 2020). Notable outlets include the European Journal of Information Systems, and leading Association for Information Systems (AIS) conferences such as the International Conference on Information Systems and the European Conference on Information Systems. To date Brown has supervised to graduation 14 PhD candidates (11 as main supervisor) and 18 Masters candidates.

Brown has been active in promoting Computing research in South Africa, mainly as a member of the South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists (SAICSIT) Council from 2007 to 2018. This included stints as SAICSIT President from 2010 to 2012, then as SAICSIT Vice-President from 2016 to 2018. He served as IFIP TC8 (IS) South African representative from 2008 to 2016, and in this role was instrumental in organising the first IFIP WG 8.11/11.13 Workshop on Information Systems Security held in 2009 in Cape Town - aptly named the Dewald Roode Workshop on IS Security. Professor Roode was responsible for championing the idea.

Brown has taken on conference leadership roles several times, e.g. the 1st IFIP WG 8.11/11.13 Workshop on Information Systems Security 2009 – Co-Organising Chair, 1st International Conference on Information Management and Evaluation (ICIME) 2010 – Program Chair, SAICSIT Conference  2011 – Chair, AIS Conf-IRM 2016 - Co-Chair, African Conference on IS & Technology (ACIST) 2017 – Co-Chair. All hosted in Cape Town.

He has served several journals including as Editor for the African Journal of Information Systems (2011 – present), and Information Systems Sub-Editor of the South African Computer Journal (2007 – 2014). He is currently a guest editor for the European Journal of Information Systems Special Issue on Advancing the Development of Contextually Relevant ICT4D Theories.