Plenary line-up

The plenary sessions feature some of the world’s most distinguished population, youth and health expert, social policy specialists, and big data expert. Plenary sessions bring all conference delegates together at the first session in the morning.

1. Youth and health
Prof. Dr. Ben White

Prof. Dr. Ben White is an emeritus professor of rural sociology at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He has been acknowledged for his contributions to agrarian studies, child and youth studies, and development studies, particularly in Indonesia. His research is focused on the processes of change in rural societies as well as the anthropology and history of childhood and youth, particularly in the area of child work and education. He has been engaged in research on these issues in Indonesia since the early 1970s. In 2012, he published an article in a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies, titled "The New Enclosures: Critical Perspectives on Corporate Land Deals". More information about him is available at

2. International Labour Migration issues
Dr Lothar Smith

Dr Lothar Smith is assistant professor at Human Geography, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He is also member of the advisory board at the African Studies Centre, a member of the Steering Committee for Transnational Synergy for Cooperation and Development (TRANSCODE), an editorial board member for the Journal of African Mobility Review, and Visiting Researcher at the African Centre for Migration & Society. His specific expertise is on transnational flows and processes between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, with a special interest in the migration-development research field. At present, his research is concerned with the position of migrants and their collective involvement in development cooperation in their countries of origin. In other research initiatives, special interest has been given to frontier processes related to the changing social configurations such as gender balance, local resource management, etc.

3. Big data for population and social policies
Prof Maria Fasli, Ph.D., NTF, FHEA

Prof Maria Fasli, Ph.D, NTF, FHEA is a professor at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. Her research interests include data exploration, analysing and modelling complex data, big data analysis, and modelling structured and unstructured data. She is now working as the Director of the Institute for Analytics and Data Science, University of Essex. More information about her is available at

4. Social protection policy
Prof Dr Rebecca Surender

Dr Rebecca Surender is a Fellow of Green Templeton College and associate professor of Social Policy at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford the United Kingdom. Her research, teaching, and publications are primarily in the area of health policy and social policy in developing countries. She was a founding member and director of the Centre for the Analysis of South African Social Policy (CASASP) at Oxford University, the first UK academic centre to exclusively undertake research on South African social policy. Her main focus within South African social policy concerns the politics, implementation, and outcomes of health and income maintenance policies. She has led a number of CASASP studies researching the implementation of the Child Support Grant, the effectiveness of income generation projects, and benefit recipients' attitudes towards labour activation strategies and social grants. She has worked as a consultant and advisor for various multilateral and government agencies, including the World Bank, UNRISD, UK DFID and SA DSD. More information about her is available at