Prof Darelle van Greunen

Position: Distinguished Professor Information Technology and Director of the Centre for Community Technologies

Centre for Community Technnologies/Department of Information Technology
041 504 2090/082 5642 356
North Campus, MTLC Building 261, Room M008

Biography / Background

Professor Van Greunen leads a research, engagement and innovation group at Nelson Mandela University, namely the Centre for Community Technologies (CCT). The CCT integrates transdisciplinary research and innovation with community engagement through the development and implementation of apps and other smart technologies that enable the advancement of education, health, rural and social development, particularly in low income communities. This is combined with training, networking and policy analysis and advice.  She is recognised as one of a handful of innovators for the people and is affectionately known as “the people’s professor” who has managed to introduce smart technologies to the man in the street.  She was the first joint-appointment as a senior researcher between a South African University and the German multinational software corporation SAP AG in 2006. Over the past five years Prof Van Greunen and her team of change-maker researchers have won various awards and international acknowledgment for their ground-breaking research and application development within the African context and thus realising her vision of “ICT solutions for Africa, by Africans, in Africa”. She obtained her PhD from the University of South Africa in 2010 and was promoted to Full Professor in 2012. Prof Van Greunen has published a number well cited scientific papers and also acts as external reviewer for a number of international journals and actively assists with the formulation of policy for the South African Government.  As such, she is then recognised as one of the leading academics in the space of advancing the 4th Industrial Revolution in Education.



  • Ph.D Computer Science (UNISA)
  • M.A Computer Aided Learning Cum Laude (UPE)
  • Further Diploma Educational Computing (UPE)
  • Higher Education Diploma (UPE)


  • Microsoft Certified Professional (Intergrated Technologies Institute)
  • Novell Network Engineer (Novell Education)
  • Advanced Network Administrator

Awards and Achievements

  • Honorary Recognition Awards
  • Honorary Professor, Amity University, India in recognition of contribution to ICT in Society
  • Lifetime Fellow of Discovery Foundation for Rural Health Innovation
  • Extraordinary Professorship at NWU's Optentia Research Unit

International Awards

  • CommonWealth Digital Health Merit Award 2020
  • United Nations Economic Forum – African Innovation Forum Award 2020
  • IT Contributor to Society (IITPSA) (2017)
  • Ushoka U Award for the EU co-funded project Common Good First (2017)

National Awards

  • IT Contributor to Society (IITPSA) (2017)
  • Finalist in the SAB Innovation Competition (Low cost hearing aid)(2106)
  • Finalist in the SAB Innovation Competition (Biometric scanner for medical records) (2014)
  • Health Innovator in Developing Countries, Bertha Centre for Innovators and Entrepreneurship (2013)
  • Best Research Paper Health Informatics Conference Southern Africa 2013
  • Best Research Paper SAICSIT 2012
  • NRF Rated Research – C2 since 2014

Institutional Awards

  • Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award (2020)
  • Nelson Mandela University Innovation Excellence Award (2020, 2018, 2017)
  • Faculty Senior Researcher of the Year (2018, 2015, 2010)
  • Nelson Mandela University Engagement Excellence Award STEM (2017/18)
  • National Research Foundation Top Achiever Award (2007)
  • Emerging Researcher of the Year (2006)

Professional Activities

  • Member of Special Working Group on ICT, Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA)
  • Digital Economy and Grassroots Innovation, South African Department of Science & Innovation
  • Board of Testing Standards in Africa
  • Health Education Advisory Board – National Department of Health
  • e-Strategies Advisory Board – SA Government
  • Chair of Living Labs of Southern Africa Board
  • IDIA International Development Informatics Association Board
  • IEEE Humanitarian Projects Board
  • Strategic Advisor to EC Department of Education


Teaching Interests

Even though I am not currently involved in undergraduate teaching, I am still actively involved in the strategic direction of learning in teaching at Nelson Mandela University.  I am also actively engaged in the development of lifelong learning programmes for the greater enhancement of society.  Through the enhancement of innovative learning and teaching strategies, I am to assist future generations with clearly structured stepping-stones to facilitate a holistic approach to the use of technology to enhance society at large.  I continue to attempt to integrate learning and teaching with applied research and in so doing, aim to advance skills in problem definition, analysis, synthesis and communication. I am also a firm advocate of placing emphasis on the human context of social demands, ethical considerations, sustainability and personal responsibility aligned with a strong value system. I believe in a linkage between teaching, research and innovation. I have initiated and spearheaded learning and teaching initiatives in the University over the past few years where we were successful with proposals to the European Union, the South African Medical Research Council and the Department of Basic Education amongst other.  In addition, we have also embarked on a journey of true inter-disciplinary learning and teaching initiatives through the development of integrated technology solutions for the offering of courses ranging from the training of Law Enforcement Officials to the overall Wellness Curriculum of schools.  I also have an active interest in finding innovative ways to ensure the teaching and learning activities remain decolinised.

Research Interests

In the 20+ years that I have been at the University, I have relished the opportunity to drive forwards excellence and enhancement of the student and staff experience in the areas for innovative use of technology to address societal challenges.  Through my collaborative initiatives at an internationally multi-partner and multi-national level, I am known as an innovative and creative person who has extensive experience of both academia and industry. For the past 5 years I was also responsible for the Centre for Community Technologies (CCT), establishing it with no funding to a self-sustainable entity with a multi-million rand per year turnover. The CCT is now an established hub for research, innovation and professional consulting in support of using technology as an enabler in South Africa but also internationally. My research interests are of a multi-disciplinary nature including user experience and interaction with technologies, the requirements of a high technology 4th Industrial Revolution-mediated environment and infrastructure, virtual learning environments and innovative digital technologies to enhance healthcare on the African continent.
List of Publications
Darelle has published and presented more than 150 peer-reviewed research papers. She is frequently invited as a keynote speaker at international conferences across the globe.

Darelle has successfully supervised 50 students to a Master’s (35) and Doctoral (15) degrees.

Research resulting in:

Policy briefs
   • ICT Readiness Maturity Model for South African Schools (Joint policy brief for Department of Science and Innovation and Department of Basic Education)
   • Universal design guidelines for inclusive education hearing impaired (DBE)
   • Policy brief on Inclusive Innovation Development towards rural development (DST)
   • Policy brief to revise School Health Policy based on pilots executed in rural Eastern Cape (DST)

   • Data Interoperability Standards for roll-out of National Health Insurance (Approved by Parliament, 23 April 2014) (National Department of Health)

Reviews/Reports on:
   • Broadband Roll-out Sustainability Model for Rural Eastern Cape (USAASA)
   • 4th Industrial Revolution and Education (Department of Communications)