Professor Ulrike Rivett

iCOMMS Founder & Team Leader

I graduated from the Technische Universität München, Germany, in 1994 with a Dipl.-Ing.univ in Land Surveying. I received a scholarship for my PhD studies in the then Department of Land Surveying, today Geomatics Department, at University of Cape Town. In 2002, I was employed in the Department of Civil Engineering and over the last decade my research has focused on the application and use of ICTs (Information Communication Technologies) to support the delivery of basic amenities and services to under-resourced communities. With the changing environment of engineering and a clear recognition of the need to improve the interface between applied science and the understanding of communities, my research has moved away from the traditional engineering space into aspects of society and engineering. The innovative use of existing technologies, in my case mobile phones and other ICTs, offers the opportunity to create a virtual infrastructure between decision makers who require up-to-date and reliable information and stakeholders who can provide this information through appropriate technologies. The need for information cuts across disciplines and my contribution over the last decade has been to connect the dots between the knowledge of specialists and the creation of a solution that offers an innovative approach to existing problems. By introducing ICTs in seemingly unrelated fields, such as the health sector, service delivery and the water sector, I have been able to develop technologies that cross conventional boundaries of knowledge, decision making and stakeholder engagement. I lead the iCOMMS Research Team, which focuses on understanding the use of systems and making them benefit society by engaging proactively with government, municipalities, and rural communities by implementing research findings and increasing impact beyond academic boundaries. In 2015, I moved with the iCOMMS Research Team to the Department of Information Systems in the Commerce Faculty at the University of Cape Town. This move is in line with my research interests in IT/ICT4D and IS.

Research Projects

iCOMMS: 2011 – present: Research Team Leader 

iCOMMS (Information for Community Oriented Municipal Service Delivery) is a research team within the Department of Civil Engineering that was formed in 2011. The focus of the team is to understand the use of information systems in the context of planning and delivering services in under-resourced environments. We believe that mobile technologies and ICT4D applications have created an opportunity to improve the ways in which we collect data, improve information flow and create a workflow that allows priority-based decision making. Our research contributes to developing models for context-based information systems that are appropriate for local and national decision-making.

GeJuSTA:  2022 – Present: Principal Investigator 

Creating pathways for Gender Justice in STEM research in Africa (GeJuSTA) is a multinational project seeking to tackle the problem of underrepresentation of women and the lack of gender analysis in STEM research. Achieving gender justice in STEM fields has remained problematic with much of the masculinist and colonialist concepts driving it. With a network of experienced academics, professionals, and other community partners, this project seeks to use a gender transformative approach, rooted in African feminism, ethics of care and ubuntu, to influence policy by identifying barriers and creatively diversifying the framing of STEM and STEA+M pedagogies.

GeDIA: 2019 – 2021: Co-Investigator  

Gender Equality is a Sustainable Development Goal in itself (SDG 5) and also has been shown to have significant secondary effects on the achievement of other development goals. Thus, women and men stand to gain from more gender-equal societies, yet in the areas of digital innovation, digital literacy and information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) gender equality is often an afterthought. Women are frequently framed as "hard-to-reach", relatively passive participants who need special encouragement to be included.

GeDIA (Gender-Just Digital Innovation in Africa) aimed to i) increase advocacy for gender equality and equal participation in public life by leveraging Data Science, Data Visualisation and Social Media Campaigning, ii) explore ways to ensure fair access to education and careers in IT and Data Science for women and girls and iii) examine co-design processes for digital-related services and develop co-design methodologies that are more gender-just and participatory.

Mozambique – World Bank Project: 2012: Consultant 

This project formed part of a World Bank Project in Mozambique with CRA, the service and price regulatory authority for the water sector in Mozambique. iCOMMS was responsible for customised training on ICT in the water and sanitation sector for stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds. The objective of the workshops was to build capacity within the sector in order to use ICTs more effectively in regulatory work. The overall intention of the project was to develop an updated ICT system for small-town water supply operations and regulations. The programme involved aspects such as an introduction to the concepts of ICT, a summary of international and African experiences on the use of ICTs and the assessment of options for an ICT system targeted for small towns.

Aquatest: 2006 – 2012: Prizncipal Investigator, water quality management tools 

This was a collaborative effort to investigate the development of a low-cost water quality test and associated management systems for use in developing countries and in disasters/emergencies. Contaminated drinking water remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in developing countries, with 1.8 million deaths per year being attributed to water-borne disease. In addition, following major disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, many deaths result not from the disaster itself but from subsequent outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated drinking water. Existing water tests are largely designed for use in developed countries and not in situations where laboratory infrastructure, resources and trained personnel are lacking. iCOMMS contribution to the project is the development of a management system for the collected water quality information using cellular technology. The data management, communication, and reporting systems developed by UCT have been tested in South Africa, Mozambique, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Aquatest research consortium was led by the University of Bristol and includes the University of California Berkeley, PATH, WHO, the Aquaya Institute, the Health Protection Agency, the University of Cape Town, the University of Southampton and the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland. The project has received a US $13 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Preparatory research on Aquatest was funded by the European Union’s FP6: Global Change and Ecosystems Programme.

Lesotho – World Bank Project: 2009: Consultant 

This project was part of a World Bank initiative in the transport sector of Lesotho. The main aspect was to develop ICT systems with a particular focus on GIS/GPS setups to monitor road infrastructure and public transport. iCOMMS was responsible for facilitating the discussions between clients/users and the technical development team. iCOMMS also developed, in collaboration with the client, a strategy for GPS implementation and GIS sustainability and maintenance.

Water Research Council – Greywater Management: 2003 – 2005: Collaborative Researcher 

This project investigated the management of greywater as a potential additional water source. With an increasing number of households receiving basic water and sanitation, the amount of greywater is continuously increasing. This investigation looked into the disposal of greywater, particularly within the framework of re-usability. The project was a comprehensive study into the management of greywater in the non-sewered areas in South Africa with a view to developing strategic options for best practice. The project was funded by the Water Research Commission.

Cell-Life: 2000 – present: Founder and Board Member 

Cell-Life started in 2000 to investigate the use of ICTs as a method to collect real-time data on HIV/AIDS. Little or no data existed to allow appropriate planning and decision making with regards to the availability of basic amenities, health services and other support mechanisms for HIV+ people in South Africa. A separate concern was the fact that existing data collection methods were too expensive and time consuming. The team developed simple cellphone menus for medical staff and home-based carers for collecting real-time data in the most remote locations. The system created a template for telemedicine and m-health initiatives in developing countries. The project attracted substantial funding from a number of organisations. In 2006 the not-for-profit organisation Cell-Life was founded to implement the technologies and support the efforts of government and the civil society sector.

Research Grants, Awards, & Funding

  • 2022: IDRC Funding, 1 207 0000(CAD)  
  • WRC Funding, R500,000 for 2015/2016
  • 2015: NRF Community Engagement Grant
  • 2014: World Bank Grant
  • 2012: WRC Funding, R900 000 for 2013/2014
  • 2010: PERC Project UCT, R150 000
  • 2008: Aquatest Project: US$1.2million for cellphone application development
  • 2007: Impumelelo Award for technological Innovation Cell-Life
  • 2006 European Union Framework 6: €500 000 for Development of Aquatest, Collaborative Project with University of Bristol, UK – one year project
  • 2006 Nokia Mobility Award, Finalist
  • 2005 Doris Duke Foundation: R2million for Development of Pharmacy Tool for Adherence Measure, collaborative project with the Desmond Tutu HIV Research Centre
  • 2005 & 2006 TT100: Top Technology 100; Cell-Life Winner in the Category: Most Noteworthy Achiever
  • 2005 Women in Science and Technology, Runner Up in the Category: Best Emerging Woman Scientist
  • 2005 Elton John Foundation: R2 million for implementation of Cell-Life technology over a three-year period
  • 2005 THRIP: R400 000
  • 2004 Vodacom Foundation Grant: R 800 000
  • 2003 Vodacom Foundation Grant: R 2 million
  • 2002 Merit Award Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment
  • Awarded DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) scholarship from 1997 – 1999 for PhD studies at the University of Cape Town

Supervision of Postgraduate Research

The focus of the research work has been in the public service delivery sector. The postgraduate research reflects this by focusing on the use of ICT (Information Communication Technologies such as cellphones) to increase public participation in service delivery management and improvement of access to services. All postgraduate research projects in the team are based on full-time research only projects in order to allow students to get a deep insight into their topic as well as become part of the iCOMMS team.

Current Students

  • P. Stemmet, registered in 2023 (PhD) “Power Dynamics of Technology adoption in waste management systems in developing countries” 
  • P. Mtambeka registered in 2023 (MCom)  
  • K. Siwale registered in 2023 (MCom) “The leaky pipeline: Experiences of female STEM graduates from South African Universities” 
  • R. Njuguna, registered in 2021 (PhD) “Digitalisation of Indigenous Finance Institutions (e.g.) stokvels in sub-Saharan Africa  
  • J. Azaki, registered in 2021 (PhD) “The role of organisational factors on knowledge retention in a public organisation” 
  • W. Chueu, registered in 2020 (PhD): “The use of business intelligence systems for decision-making processes : A case of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality” 
  • O. Mosweu, registered in 2020 (PhD) “ICT Implementation Strategy in facilitating digital inclusion in South African rural schools: Case of Lehurutshe in the North West.” 
  • P. Kankwende, registered 2019 (PhD): “Architectural Framework for Improving Dispensing of Chronic Medications through Automation” 
  • C. Jacobs, registered 2016 (PhD): “Redefining e-Governance Success & Failure: A South African” Perspective  
  • T. Pashapa, registered 2014 (PhD): "The effect of ICT proliferation on rurality and service delivery in South Africa" 
  • F. Ssozi, registered 2014 (PhD): “Co-Designing Community-based ICT interventions to Support Rural Water Management​” 

Graduated Students

  • M. Chemisto, graduated 2022 (PhD): “Optimizing perspectives: a classic grounded theory of stakeholder perceptions on WSDB influence in Uganda's water sector” 
  • B. Forlee, graduated 2021 (MCom): “The value of information in municipalities: A South African case study in the Eastern Cape ” 
  • G. Amoako, graduated 2020 (PhD): “Development of a Framework for ICT Performance Assessment in the Water Sector” 
  • B. Wolff-Pigott, graduated 2020 (PhD): “Situating mHealth in the workplace: a coordination studies perspective " 
  • J. Azaki, graduated 2020 (MCom): “The effect of a persuasive information campaign on students' intention to save water” 
  • R. Chibota, graduated 2018 (MCom): “Assessing public participatory mechanisms in the water and sanitation sector in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa​” 
  • H. Ali, graduated 2017 (PhD): “Investigating mobile graphic-based reminders to support compliance of tuberculosis treatment” 
  • S. Kumbirai, graduated 2018 (MSc): "Assessing Stakeholder Perceptions in Participatory Infrastructure Upgrades - a Case Study of Project Silvertown in Cape Town ​" 
  • H. Arito, graduated 2016 (MSc): “Assessing the Effect of Water-Related Information, Provided by Mobile Application, on Water Conservation at Household Level” 
  • C. Jacobs, graduated 2016 (MSc): “Adapting and responding to ICTs - a study of two municipalities in rural South Africa” 
  • \W. Hill, graduated 2016 (MPhil): "Social Predictors for ICT4D Adoption" 
  • S. Mhlanga, graduated 2016 (BCom Honours) 
  • L. Ngobeni, graduated 2016 (MCom): “Assessing knowledge-transfer in sanitation projects to promote sustainable VIP latrine provision ” 
  • L. Farrar, graduated 2014 (MSc): “The free basic water policy of South Africa : an evaluation of its implementation ” 
  • S. Gool, graduated 2013 (MSc): “Water supply and sanitation services in South Africa a cluster analysis approach” 
  • T. Wilson-Jones, graduated 2012 (MSc): “Influence of real-time information provided by a mobile phone on the management of rural water supply quality” 
  • C. Dondo, graduated 2010 (PhD): " Bayesian networks for spatio-temporal integrated catchment assessment" 

Key Contributions

  • 2012 – 2016: Elected Member to UCT Council
  • 2009 – 2012: Elected Member to UCT Council
  • 2008 – 2010: President UCT Academics Union
  • 2008 – 2012: Elected Member to UCT Senate
  • 2006 – 2008: Chair Academics Association UCT
  • 2003 – 2005: Elected Member to the UCT Senate


  1. Jacobs, C., Rivett, U., & Chemisto, M. (2016). Information Technology in Environmental Engineering: Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Information Technologies in Environmental Engineering (ITEE 2015). In J. Marx Gómez & B. Scholtz (Eds.), (pp. 65–74). Cham: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-25153-0_6.

  2. Pashapa, T., ​Rivett, U. (2015): The context of ICT4D and development in rural areas: a case study of South Africa. Proceedings of the 9th IDIA conference, 8 - 9 November 2015, Nungwi, Zanzibar: 266-285 ISBN: 978-0-620-68395-1.

  3. Chemisto, M., ​Rivett, U. (2015): A Review of Sector Coordination and ICTs in Multi-Stakeholder Environs of Uganda’s Rural Water Sector. Proceedings of the 9th IDIA conference, 8 - 9 November 2015, Nungwi, Zanzibar: 266-285 ISBN: 978-0-620-68395-1.

  4. Jacobs C., Rivett U., Chemisto M. (2015): Designing for Engagement - A Case of an ICT Solution for Citizens Complaints Management in Rural South Africa. Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Information Technologies in Environmental Engineering (ITEE2015) held on 14 - 16 July 2015, Port Elizabeth, South Africa (This paper was voted the Best Paper during ITEE 2015 Conference).

  5. Gordon A., Rivett U. (2015): 'Towards the Development of Sustainable ICT Projects in Africa- A Review and Synthesis of Evaluation Frameworks'. The paper was presented at the African Conference on Information Systems and Technology (ACIST) 7 - 8 July 2015, Accra, Ghana.

  6. Fiona C. S., Edwin B., and Rivett U. (2015) Designing for sustainability: Involving communities in developing ICT interventions to support resource management. In IST-Africa 2015 Conference Proceedings, Lilongwe, Malawi, 6-8 May 2015. IMC International Information Management Corporation, ISBN: 978-1-905824-50-2.

  7. Forlee B., Rivett U. (2015). The Value of Information - Assessing ICT Requirements in Local Government. IST Africa 2015 Conference Malawi. ISBN 978-905824-50-2.

  8. Hill W., Rivett U. (2015). 'eGovernance: Silencing Vulnerable Populations' at the Humanitarian Technology: Science, Systems and Global Impact 2015 Conference, Boston, MA in USA on May 12 - 14 2015.

  9. Rivett U., Taylor D., Chair C., Forlee B., Mrwebi M., Van Belle JP., Chigona W.: Community Engagement in Drinking Water Supply Management: A Review, WRC Report No. TT 583/13, 978-1-4312-0506-8,, 2014.

  10. Rivett U., Marsden G., Blake E.: ICT for Development – Extending Computing Design Concepts, in Africa – Centred Knowldges: Crossing Fields and Worlds, ed.: Cooper & Morell; pg 126; Oxford: James Currey, 2014; ISBN: 9781847010957.

  11. Haji H., Suleman H., Rivett U.: Mobile Graphic-Based Communication: Investigating Reminder Notifications to Support Tuberculosis Treatment in Africa, in Health Information Science, Third International Conference, HIS2014, Shenzhen China, ISBN 978-3-319—6268-6, Springer Verlag, 2014.

  12. Loudon M., Rivett U.: Enacting Openess in ICT4D Research, Open Development- Networked Innovations in International Development, MIT Press – International Development Research Centre Canada, edited by M. Smith and K. Reilly, ISBN 978-0-1-5520-568-7, 2014.

  13. Champanis M., Rivett U., Gool S., Nyemba-Mudenda M.: ICTs in the water sector – where do we stand? WRC Report No. TT571/13, ISBN 978-1-4312-0463-2,, 2013.

  14. Rivett U., Champanis M., Wilson-Jones T.: Monitoring drinking water quality in South Africa: Designing information systems for local needs, WaterSA, Volume 39 No 3 WISA 2012, Special Edition 2013.

  15. Champanis M, Rivett U: Reporting Water Quality – A Case study of a Mobile Phone Application for Collecting Data in Developing Countries, International Conference on Information and Communication Technology and Development, Atlanta 2012, ACM 978-1-4503-1045-1/12/03 , ISBN 978-1-4503-1045-1.

  16. Brown D., Marsden G., Rivett U.: Water Alert! Using Mobile Phones to Improve Community Perspective on Drinking Water Quality in South Africa, International Conference on Information and Communication Technology and Development, Atlanta 2012 ACM 978-1-4503-1045-1/12/03, ISBN 978-1-4503-1045-1.

  17. Loudon M, Rivett U: Enacting Openess in ICT4D research, Information Technologies & International Development Journal, Vol.7, Issue 1 Spring 2011, pg 33-46, ISSN 1544-7529.

  18. Loudon M, Rivett U: Methods and conceptual tools for success in local government information systems, IDIA Conference, Cape Town November 2010.

  19. Rivett U, Loudon M.: Learning to succeed at e-Government, ACM Interactions, Volume XVII, July + August 2010, pg 30 - 33.

  20. Rivett U, Tapson J.: The Cell-Life Project: Converging technologies in the context of HIV/AIDS, International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, Vol 2 (2009), pg 82-97, ISSN 1836-3393.

  21. Loudon M, Ajmal T, Rivett U, de Jager D, Bain R, Matthews R, Gundry S: A 'human-in-the-loop' mobile image recognition application for rapid scanning of water quality test results, EISE 2009, , ISBN 978-1-906124-24-3, ISSN 1477-9358.

  22. Balikuddembe J., Bagula A., Rivett U.: Complexity Management of Customization Requests on Software Products: A Value- Based Approach, 2009 International Conference on Software Technology and Engineering ICSTE, Chennai, India _ Conference

  23. Wood R., Kaplan R, Bekker L-G, Rivett U., Brown S.: The Utility of Pharmacy Dispensing Data for ART Programme Evaluation and Early identification of Patient Loss to follow up, Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine, Autumn 2008.

  24. Torensen T., Rivett U., Fortuin J.: Review of e-health systems for HIV/AIDS and antiretroviral treatment management in South Africa, Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare Volume 14 Number 1 2008, DOI: 10.1258/jtt.2007.070502.

  25. Vanmeulenboek, Rivett, Loudon, Rickett: Open Source GIS for HIV management, Submitted, International Journal of Health Geographics, 2008.

  26. Sorensen, Rivett, Fortuin: ICT Systems for HIV/AIDS management: Status and requirements in South Africa, IST- IEEE conference, Namibia 2008, ref49_doc1772.

  27. Rivett, Loudon, Kiggundu: Aquatest Report 1, EU Framework 6, 2008.

  28. Carden, Armitage, Winter, Sichone, Rivett: The management of greywater in the non-sewered areas in South Africa, Urban Water Journal, 070045, 2008.

  29. Sorensen, Rivett, Fortuin: Review of ICT Systems for HIV/AIDS and ART management in South Africa, SANORD ICT conference, UWC, December 2007.

  30. Armitage N., Carden K., Winter K., Sichone 0., Rivett U.: Greywater Management in non-sewered areas in South Africa; WRC Report 2007; 1524/1/07 Water Research Commission.

  31. Carden K., Armitage N., Winter K., Sichone O.,Rivett U., Kahonde J.: The use and disposal of greywater in the non-sewered areas of South Africa: Part 1 – Quantifying the greywater generated and assessing its quality, Water SA Vol. 33 no.4, July 2007, ISSN 0378 -4738.

  32. Nattrass N, Wessels X, Rivett U: Rivett U: Improving the efficiency of monitoring adherence to antiretroviral therapy at primary health care level: A case study of the introduction of electronic technologies in Gugulethu, South Africa, Journal: Development Southern Africa, October 2007, Print ISSN: 0376-835x, Online ISSN: 1470-3637.

  33. Skinner D., Rivett U., Bloomberg C.: Evaluation of use of cell phones to aid compliance with drug therapy for HIV patients, AIDSCARE, May 2007, Print ISSN: 0954-0121 Online ISSN: 1360-0451.

  34. Brown S., Loudon M., Rivett U.: The Delivery of Antiretroviral Dispensing Software - Lessons Learnt from 4 pharmacies in South Africa, IST IEEE Conference, May 2007, Mozambique.

  35. Skinner D, Rivett U, Bloomberg C.: Evaluation of use of cell phones to aid compliance with drug therapy for HIV patients, Telemedicine Conference Cape Town, Nov 2006.

  36. Sorensen T., Rivett U., Fortuin J.: eHealth for ART-management in South Africa Reporting from a pre-study, Telemedicine Conference Cape Town, Nov 2006.

  37. Hanmer LA, Dikweni L, Ghiassi-Razavi J, Loots, H, Minnaar JJ, Rivett U.: An assessment of the effect of the use of wireless communication technology for effective management of patient care in primary health care clinics in the north west province, Telemedicine Conference Cape Town, Nov 2006.

  38. Rivett U: Using Open Source GIS to Allow Previously Disadvantaged Communities to Gain Access to Spatial Data, Web- Enabled GIS and Location Based Services Conference, Johannesburg May 2006.

  39. Brown S, de Jager D, Wood R, Rivett U: A Pharmacy Stock Control Management System to Effectively Monitor and Manage Patients on ART, The 4th IEE International Seminar on Appropriate Healthcare Technologies for Developing Countries, London May 2006; ISSN: 0537-9989 , ISBN: 0-86341-633-0.

  40. Fynn R. W, de Jager D, Chan H.A., Anand S, Rivett U: Remote HIV/AIDS Patient Monitoring Tool Using 3G/GPRS Packet-Switched Mobile Technology, The 4th IEE International Seminar on Appropriate Healthcare Technologies for Developing Countries, London May 2006; ISSN: 0537-9989 ISBN: 0-86341-633-0.

  41. Carden K., Armitage N., Sichone O., Winter K., Rivett U.: Management options for the safe use and disposal of greywater in the non-sewered areas of South Africa. The Water Institute of Southern Africa, Biennial Conference, Durban South Africa, May 2006, Local Conference.

  42. Carden K., Armitage N., Sichone O., Winter K., Rivett U.: Developing a model to assess the impact of greywater in the informal settlements of South Africa. Urban Drainage Modelling and Water Sensitive Urban Design Conference, Melbourne Australia, April 2006.

  43. Vanmeulenbroek B, Rivett U: GIS for HIV/AIDS Management. GIM International, March 2006.

  44. Vanmeulenbroek B, Rivett U: Open Source GIS development for HIV/AIDS Management. Presented at AfricaGIS2005 Conference, Pretoria, November 2005.

  45. Winter K., Armitage N., Carden K., Sichone O., Rivett, U.: The potential for greywater management in the non-sewered settlements of South Africa. Diffuse Pollution Specialist Conference, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 2005.

  46. Anand S & Rivett U: ICT in the management of HIV treatment: Cell-Life- a South African Solution; Convergence Journal Vol6, No 3, September 2005.

  47. Carden, K., Armitage, N., Sichone, O., Winter, K. & Rivett, U.: Issues concerning the management of greywater in the non-sewered, sub-economic settlements of the Western Cape, South Africa. 10th International Conference on Urban Drainage, Copenhagen, Denmark, August 2005.

  48. Rivett U & Anand S: Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in Patient ART Follow Up; HIV/Aids & eHealth Workshop, WHO Centre of Telemedicine Tromso, Norway, June 2005.

  49. Carden, K., Armitage, N., Sichone, O., Rivett, U. & Winter, K.: Developing strategies for the disposal and use of greywater in the non-sewered areas of South Africa. Third International Conference on Ecological Sanitation, Durban, South Africa, May 2005.

  50. Rivett U.: A Technological Monitoring and Management Support System for Anti-Retroviral Therapy in South Africa: Introducing Cell-Life, The Impact of HIV/AIDS Policy on the Corporate World: From Company to Community, February 2005, Johannesburg.

  51. Busgeeth K. Rivett U.: The use of Spatial Information Systems in the management of HIV/AIDS, International Journal of Health Geographics July 2004, International Journal of Health Geographics 2004, 3:13 doi:10.1186/1476-072X-3-13.