As promised in one of my posts, today, I will review the Master of Science programme in Information Theory, Coding and Cryptography (ITCC) offered by the Mzuzu University (Mzuni) in Malawi. To begin with, coding theory can be subdivided into two main branches namely: Cryptography and Error Correcting Codes (ECC). Cryptography is about making secure passwords,Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and secret keys. It is based on an intriguing branch of mathematics called Number Theory as well as on Abstract Algebra.On the other hand, Error Correcting Codes (ECC) is about minimizing errors in transfer or storage of information.The mathematics behind ECC is also fascinating and based mainly on Abstract Algebra.

Coding theory is a live and exciting area of research though it is still in the development phase. Unfortunately, the African continent is not actively taking part in this exciting research area. It has been reported that in the Two Volume 1998 Handbook of Coding theory there is no contribution from Africa. Although recently, I have seen a number of publications in reputable conferences and journals contributed by Mzuzu University and University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Radio Access Technologies Centre, there is a lot that must be done if Africa is to make an impact in coding theory. And it is out of this conviction that the Mzuzu University introduced the Master of Science programme in Information Theory, Coding and Cryptography (ITCC). This is a two year programme, coordinated by Professor John A. Ryan who is ably assisted by Prof Edward Schaefer from Santa Clara University. The programme is also supported by many experts in the field including the following who have spent time at Mzuzu University lecturing in the programme:

  • Prof Patrick Fitzpatrick,University College Cork, Ireland
  • Dr. Eimear Bryne, University College Dublin
  • Dr. Katie O’Brien, Bristol University,UK
  • Dr. Carl Bracken, Institute for Technology, Dublin

The success of this MSc in ITCC is reflected in the fact that this programme has already resulted in not less than 15 papers being presented at international conferences in three different continents as well as publications in substantial journals. This year, two Mzuzu University MSc in ITCC graduates, Ezekiel Kachisa and Isaiah Makwakwa, a great friend of mine, won high level PhD scholarships in the Claude Shannon Institute, an Irish Research Institute in Coding theory. These guys had to compete with other candidates worldwide. Their success just proves that the Mzuzu University MSc in ITCC is a world class programme. As of now, this programme is in its fifth intake. You can apply for the programme here. While attending the IEEE Africon conference in Namibia, Professor John Ryan told me that already there are applications from three countries outside Malawi namely, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Uganda.This further indicates the significance of the programme internationally.

The Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Limited support the programme with some scholarships for local students. Currently, Mzuzu University and Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Limited are promoting female participation in the programme as they both believe that coding theory should not merely be the domain of the male.

Finally, I would like to ask both local and international companies to consider supporting MSc in ITCC students with more scholarships. Companies can also contribute to the development of the programme by suggesting potential real life research topics which MSc in ITCC students can be working on as part of their projects. In so doing, the programme will be in a position to develop products that will have a tremendous impact on the common man in the street.