In South Africa, the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) defines the various engineering disciplines within which professionals may register. These names may not always be the names that the industry would prefer.
One of these names is ‘computer engineering’, which is quite misleading. Computer engineering is not information technology (IT), and industrial computer engineering could have been a more accurate name for this new discipline.
In contrast to information technology, computer engineering is an engineering discipline combining electrical engineering and computer science to design, develop and test industrial control systems, computer systems, communication networks, and associated software. Computer engineers are involved in various fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, internet of things, biomedical engineering, etc. Computer engineering is a rapidly growing and evolving field that requires constant innovation and adaptation to meet the needs and challenges of society and industry.
ECSA tasked SAIMC with developing a Code of Practice for computer engineering. Our thanks go to Dr Henri Marais, associate professor and undergraduate programme manager from North-West University School for Electrical, Electronic & Computer Engineering; Gerhard Greeff; Gawie Reyneke and Antoine Snyman from the SAIMC MESA Africa Advisory Council for taking on this task.
As a new engineering discipline, computer engineering also requires voluntary association representation at ECSA, which is the statutory body that regulates the engineering profession in South Africa and sets the standards for engineering education, training and practice. ECSA also accredits engineering programmes, registers engineering practitioners, and promotes public interest and safety in engineering.
Voluntary association representation at ECSA enables computer engineers to:
• Have a voice and influence in developing and implementing policies, regulations and standards that affect their profession and practice.
• Access professional development opportunities such as workshops, seminars, conferences, and publications that enhance their knowledge and skills.
• Network and collaborate with other engineering professionals and stakeholders across different disciplines and sectors.
• Receive recognition and validation of their qualifications, competencies and achievements.
• Benefit from protecting and supporting their rights and interests as engineering practitioners.
SAIMC (Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Mechatronics and Control) is one of the voluntary associations recognised by ECSA. SAIMC represents professionals in mechatronics, measurement, control, automation, instrumentation, industrial electronics, and related disciplines. It aims to advance the theory and practice of these fields and promote the professional development and recognition of its members.
SAIMC does not explicitly include computer engineering in its name, although it forms part of its scope as evidenced by professionals working in the computerised control system space. Since MESA Africa joined the SAIMC, this added another computer engineering focus to the SAIMC’s scope. If SAIMC does not explicitly including computer engineering in its long name there could be confusion and ambiguity among computer engineers seeking a voluntary association representing their specific discipline. It may also limit the visibility and awareness of computer engineering as a distinct and valuable engineering discipline among other engineering professionals and stakeholders.
After discussions with Henri Marais and Gerhard Greeff, we propose to change the ‘long name’ of SAIMC to include computer engineering as one of its core disciplines. This will reflect the diversity and inclusivity of SAIMC as a voluntary association that caters for automation in all its aspects. It will also acknowledge the importance and relevance of computer engineering as an engineering discipline that requires voluntary association representation at ECSA.
We believe that changing the name of SAIMC to include computer engineering will benefit both SAIMC and computer engineers in South Africa. It will:
• Promote the awareness and appreciation of computer engineering as a vital engineering discipline that contributes to the social and economic development of South Africa.
• Foster a sense of belonging and identity among computer engineers who are part of SAIMC as a voluntary association that recognises and supports their profession.
• Attract computer engineers to join SAIMC as members, and increase its membership base and representation.
• Enhance the reputation and credibility of SAIMC as a voluntary association that embraces innovation and changes in engineering.
• Strengthen the collaboration and communication between SAIMC and ECSA on computer engineering education, training, registration, and practice matters.
We believe that this change will reflect the current trends and needs of the engineering profession in South Africa and will enhance the value and impact of SAIMC as a voluntary association. We propose the new long name to be Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Mechatronics and Computer Engineering.
Yours in automation,
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