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    Living Lab Social Development Facilitator: Ms Alida Veldsman

    While huge advances have been made in the area of digital technology, one of the challenges for developers is ensuring that devices can be used easily by people.

    Ms Alida Veldsman, an independent consultant and advisor regards herself as a catalyst for the development and enhancement of socio-economic change in developing or emerging communities. Alida specializes in preparing communities to deal with the introduction of ICT as a socio-economic enabler in the community. Her work known as “change management from the user perspective” has close ties with “user experience”, which deals with how a human being interacts and experiences the interaction with technology.

    In this capacity, she is involved in the CSIR Meraka project Broadband for All. This project aims to remove or minimise technology barriers, enable bottom-up creation of wireless access infrastructure and provide cheaper broadband in remote and rural communities. Research has been focused in the areas of mesh networking, low cost voice/messaging devices, low cost access points and antennas, and network security. Mesh networking research is interesting in that a community can grow a wireless network in an ad-hoc manner without the need for large capital investment in radio masts.

    Ms Veldsman is also involved in a number of projects through the SAP Research Campus-Based Engineering Centre (CEC) Pretoria and the SAP Meraka Unit for Technology Development (UTD). Alida plays a leading role in Project Rustica which has the primary goal of developing a roadmap for socio-economic community development in rural areas. Her vast experience in the space of change management, the introduction of ICT in rural communities and the introduction of entrepreneurial skills is then also utilized by the School of ICT at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University where she not only acts as technical advisor to the postgraduate students of Prof Darelle van Greunen, but she is also actively involved in collaborative research projects of the User Experience Research Group lead by Prof van Greunen. This includes collaboration with international role players, industries and leading universities.

    “I view myself as a catalyst for change in communities. I look at ICT as an enabler in the community, especially the rural community… I prepare the community to successfully use the technology and how technology can benefit their social wellbeing in society. There is a very strong human element in my research.”

    Ms Veldsman participated in a Finnish Knowledge Exchange visit arranged by SAFIPA in 2009. Her visit to Finland resulted in joint research initiatives between herself, Prof van Greunen (Professor at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and Senior Researcher at SAP CEC) and Prof Marko Nieminen (Professor at Aalto University in Helsinki). This group is then also investigating how they can utilize the knowledge of Ms Veldsman as a practitioner in developing new methodologies and research processes in a new research area which combines user experience, change management and maturity models.

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