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Doctoral defence of Samuel Tewelde Yigzaw, MPhil, 27.4.2023: A model for knowledge management systems in higher education and research: The case of the UbuntuNet Alliance

The doctoral dissertation in the field of Computer Science will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus and online.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in developing economies are known to be struggling with the lack of appropriate means to manage and share knowledge amongst the members of the community. This knowledge takes many forms, such as teaching and learning materials or research results created in the institution. Often these problems are because of inadequate and varying technological and educational capabilities in the institutions.

This study focuses on the case of UbuntuNet Alliance- the regional research and education network in the eastern and southern Africa that aims to promote knowledge sharing among member institutions in the region. It is a consortium of those national research and education institutions with varying technological and educational capabilities, leading to potential redundancy of resources and capacity development challenges. Access to technical and developmental resources is one of the main contextual challenges in this region. Nonetheless, the members of the alliance share a common goal of developing knowledge sharing infrastructure to leverage their institutional capabilities and be able to address local problems, while promoting international research.

Therefore, it is important to have a guiding framework for contextualized solutions that promotes proper adaptation of relevant technology solutions that are designed in different settings for similar purposes, and the study attempts to contribute towards this end.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

The dissertation presents several important findings that contribute to our understanding of knowledge management systems (KMS) in the context of regional collaboration. Firstly, it realized that local technology solutions need to be customized to fit the unique context of the receiving environment while adhering to common features expected at the regional level. Secondly, it identified the design-reality gap as a major reason for the failure of ICT projects in developing countries. To address this issue, the study proposes a regional KMS model that involves re-designing technology platforms to meet the specific needs of the region without starting from scratch. This approach can help to bridge the gap between design and implementation and improve the success rate of KMS initiatives.

Thirdly, it discovered that regional symbiosis could drive the means to harness unique capabilities through the hierarchical structure of member institutions that can be shared equitably as a regional resource. This can be achieved through a cloud-native KMS infrastructure, which can help to reduce costs for the member institutions and increase efficiency. Based on these findings, the study proposes a regional KMS model that takes into account the unique capabilities and context of the member institutions of the region. The proposed model is driven by the fact that knowledge in its less commercialized form can be regionally mobilized and equitably shared without depleting the source.

How can the results of your doctoral research be utilised in practice?

My dissertation examines the regional alliance in the Eastern and Southern African Countries and its practical usability. Despite being in operation for two decades, not all members have developed their national and local institutions sufficiently to participate and utilize the regional knowledge effectively, which yet requires coordination and mobilization. Additionally, it's not feasible to implement a model that has worked for other regional research and education alliances such as NORDUNET or REDCLARA in the UbuntuNet Alliance as it is not designed for it, and models that have been effective for one member institution may not work for another.

To address these challenges, my dissertation proposes a relevant and contextualized KMS model for the regional alliance by unleashing various unique challenges that characterize the regional institutions and devising opportunities around them to serve the knowledge resources integration. The research and education institutions could utilize the essential groundwork provided by the study that can assist the establishment and empowerment of their knowledge management systems, which could also inspire further research and development in the region, promoting a more effective regional alliance for knowledge sharing.As a researcher and a member of an institution in the alliance's domain, I also plan to use this research as a foundation for developing relevant solutions that will serve as a useful resource and guide for the alliance in the future.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

This study aimed to develop a KMS model for the UbuntuNet regional alliance, focusing on both the organizational and techno-centric perspectives, based on the organizational theory as well as the symbiosis theory that highlights the dependence relationship between member institutions and their tendency towards unity for a resourceful regional knowledge pool. To achieve this, an exploratory and interpretivist approach was employed, with qualitative research methods used to gain a deeper understanding of the real-world empirical data. The study followed the Grounded Theory Method (GTM) as the main research paradigm and resulted in the development of the proposed model for KMS in the symbiotic regional environment of HE and research institutions. The research utilized semi-structured interviews with representative respondents from institutional viewpoints, selected using purposive sampling techniques based on their institutional role. The qualitative data gathered was analyzed with both techno-centric and organizational perspectives.

This study consists of four publications, including a systematic literature review that established the foundational knowledge for the research works. The study further explored the higher education and research environment in a selected country in the region and delved into the working environment of UbuntuNet Alliance regional network member national institutions in connection with the theme of the research.

Is there something else about your doctoral dissertation you would like to share in the press release?

This dissertation is an outcome of the Eritrea specific HEI-ICI capacity building program funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The research was inspired by the successful implementation of ICT4EEDU project, which aimed to develop the ICT capacity of Eritrean Higher Education. As the author, I was motivated by this experience and thus, this doctoral dissertation focuses on contributing to the development of the regional research and education network. By promoting knowledge sharing and collaboration among national research and education institutions, this dissertation lays a viable groundwork for the betterment of academia and society as a whole. The findings and recommendations outlined in the research can serve as valuable resources for institutions aiming to establish and empower their own national research and education networks while strengthening the regional alliance. I also acknowledge the importance of complementary research from other perspectives to enrich the comprehensive guide for the Alliance. This work serves as an invitation to further collaborative efforts towards creating effective regional research and education networks with relevant and contextual solutions.

The doctoral dissertation of Samuel Tewelde Yigzaw, MPhil, entitled A Model for Knowledge Management Systems in Higher Education and Research: The Case of the UbuntuNet Alliance in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus. The opponent will be Professor Tero Vartiainen, University of Vaasa,  and the custos will be and University Lecturer, Docent Ilkka Jormanainen, University of Eastern Finland. Language of the public defence is English.

For more information, please contact:

Samuel Tewelde Yigzaw,, tel. 050 302 9101