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Reseacher January 2023

Prof. Mugendi K. M’Rithaa is a transdisciplinary industrial designer, educator, researcher and consultant presently the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration, Planning and Finance) at Machakos University, Kenya. He studied in Kenya, the USA, India, and South Africa and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Design; a Masters degree in Industrial Design; a Higher/Postgraduate Diploma Higher Education and Training; as well as a Doctorate in Universal Design. He is widely traveled and has taught in Kenya, Botswana, Canada, India, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and Uganda and is passionate about various expressions of socially conscious design, including Advanced Ergonomics/Human Factors EngineeringDesign Thinking/Human-Centred Design (HCD); Designerly Strategies for Mitigating Climate ChangeDesign for Social Innovation and SustainabilityDistributed Renewable EnergyIndigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS); Participatory/Co-DesignSustainable DevelopmentSustainable Transportation; and Universal/Inclusive Design (UD).

Mugendi has a special interest in the pivotal role of design thinking in advancing the developmental agenda on the African continent. He is a founding member and Simba Fellow of the Pan-Afrikan Design Institute (PADI)/Design Council of Afrika, and is associated with a number of other international networks focusing on design within industrially developing (or majority world contexts) including the Association of Designers of India (ADI). He is also the Founding Patron of the Interior Designers’ Association of Kenya (IDAK); a Board Member of Open Design Afrika (ODA); the Special Advisor to the Hasso Plattner [School of Design Thinking] d-school AFRIKA at the University of Cape Town; the Special Advisor to the Nairobi Design Week (NDW); a Founding Professional Member of the Design Kenya Society (DKS); an Advisory Board member of the Global Equality Alliance (GEA); a Member of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE); as well as an Advisory Committee Member of the International Center for Creativity and Sustainable Development (ICCSD) under the auspices of UNESCO. He is the Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair on Cloud Computings for Sustainable Development. Additionally, Mugendi is the President Emeritus and Senator of the World Design Organization (WDO) – having been the first African President in the history of the WDO. Much of his work with the WDO focuses on the importance of supporting the aspirations of designers worldwide in the [industrial] design profession’s collective quest to resolve wicked problems in diverse contexts.

Section 1: Project details
Project TitleUNESCO Chair on Cloud Computing for Sustainable Development
Grant AmountTBC
Principal Investigator:
Mugendi K. M’RithaaMachakos University

Section 2: Introduction/objective
Machakos University (MksU) was recently awarded the rare and prestigious UNESCO Chair on Cloud Computing for Sustainable Development within the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme commencing in January 2023 for an initial period of four years. Under this design-led transdisciplinary research project, Machakos University will lead a dynamic private-public partnership that will address five sub-themes, namely: Health and Well-being; Agriculture and Food Security; Education and Training; Climate Resilience and Environmental Sustainability; and Space Science and Surveillance.   This award will enable MksU to actively participate in international networks and virtual communities of practice to “facilitate the establishment of new teaching programmes; generate new ideas through research and reflection; and facilitate enrichment of existing university programmes while respecting cultural diversity” in resonance with national and continental visions in an interconnected and resilient post-COVID-19 dispensation.   According to UNESCO, “the purpose of the Chair shall be to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation on cloud computing for sustainable development. It will facilitate collaboration between high-level, internationally-recognized researchers and teaching staff of the University and other institutions in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa region and in other regions of the world.”  

Development objective (long-term):
a) Provide Cloud Computing and allied ICT support that service applied research needs by enabling capacity building within MksU thematic cross-disciplinary research focus areas such as agriculture, environmental protection, food security, climate action, health informatics; and myriad developmental priorities; and
b) Facilitate MksU’s contribution to Kenya’s Vision 2030; the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063; and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).  

Specific objectives:
a) Build upon the Luban Workshop Centre of Excellence established at MksU and building upon the joint MoU between MksU and Tianjin City Vocational College (TVCT), as well as China’s broader Belt and Road Initiative that incorporates Kenya;
b) strengthen MksU’s leadership in Cloud Computing and Information Security (in partnership with Huawei Kenya) within the region and beyond;
c) increase MksU’s potential contribution to Cloud Computing and allied ICT strategies, particularly in partnership with the Konza Technopolis Authority; and
d) offer MksU opportunities for advancing research and pedagogical applications in Cloud Computing, benchmarking of international best practices, as well as increase MksU’s ability to attract additional funding from other organisations and stakeholders.  

Section 3: Key outputs and impacts
The MksU-TCVC UNITWIN/UNESCO Programme will contribute to the realization of the UN SDGs by building upon the Luban Workshop to consolidate its role as a reputable centre of excellence and innovation within the [East] African region. It is worth noting that the MksU Luban Workshop is one of the first such centres on the continent. Consequently, it will act as a major catalyst for innovation in Cloud Computing applications whilst bolstering a variety of fields and (sub-)disciplines.  

Additionally, the UNITWIN/UNESCO Programme will provide a platform for Quadruple Helix model of partnership (incorporating actors from the academic, business, civil society, and governmental sectors) to thrive. Consequently, the said programme will offer novel applications of Cloud Computing across multiple fields with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of life of communities living within the region by addressing wicked problems associated with climate change, distance learning/digital inclusion, food insecurity, as well as health-related concerns for people, livestock and wildlife.  
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