Waikato pays tribute to open-source data mining trailblazer

9 May 2023

Ian Witten

The University of Waikato is mourning the passing of Emeritus Professor Ian Witten.

Professor Witten arrived at the University from Canada in 1992. An expert in computer software and digital technology, he helped establish the University’s international reputation in machine learning, data mining and digital libraries.

Digital library software he developed is now used by organisations including the BBC, New York Botanical Gardens and UNESCO. As Head of the University’s New Zealand Digital Library Research Group, Professor Witten oversaw the development of software that has been adopted in more than 60 countries and is used to collate information for large operations including disaster relief.

Best known for his open-source software, Professor Witten shared his advances with thousands of students, teachers and users around the world, including one of the world’s most widely-used data mining tools, Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis - WEKA, and the language learning systems FLAX.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley says Professor Witten created the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from a New Zealand university to teach users about WEKA in 2013.

“This course and the two that followed have been taken by thousands of learners around the world, and the associated videos on Youtube have been viewed millions of times.”

Professor Witten received many accolades acknowledging his work including the International Federation of Information Processing Namur Award in 2004, the Royal Society Te Apārangi Hector Medal in 2005, and a Kea Award in 2010.

During his time at the University of Waikato, Professor Witten received funding for five Marsden fund grants, and he supervised more than 40 masters and doctoral students. He made a significant contribution to the Computer Science department, co-authoring with many staff and implementing ongoing succession planning.

Ian was recognised by the University by being awarded the title of Emeritus Professor in 2014.

The University’s thoughts are with Ian’s family, colleagues and friends.

Latest stories

Related stories

NZ Cyber Security Challenge 2021

Securing New Zealand’s future: Cyber Security Challenge celebrates 10 years

Tomorrow, Kiwis across the country will be at the University of Waikato for the 10th…

Scholarship supports two worthy women in technology

The inaugural Endace Women in Technology Scholarship has been awarded to two University of Waikato…

The opening of G Block

Golden jubilee: 50 years of Computing at University of Waikato

This year, the University of Waikato is celebrating 50 years of Computing, marking a significant…

New app allows easy identification of all NZ plants, animals and fungi

Imagine being able to readily identify every plant and bird in your garden, on a…

University of Waikato researchers shape the future of Artificial Intelligence in New Zealand

University of Waikato researchers are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to tackle problems…

University of Waikato signs new joint programme with Hainan University

University of Waikato is pleased to announce a new agreement with Hainan University in China…

Fostering analyst opportunities in rugby

The Chiefs Rugby Club is teaming up with the University of Waikato to offer a…


The future is female: New women in tech scholarship launched

A new scholarship set to support women in computer science and software engineering has been…

Michael Tsai

White hat hacker and cybersecurity graduate protects NZ businesses online

Master of Cyber Security student Michael Tsai spends his days trolling client systems, searching for…

University provides Māori youth with STEM opportunities

It was a taste of University life for 76 Māori high school students from around…

Wānanga works to carve a pathway for Māori Artificial Intelligence

A hui that brought together Artificial Intelligence experts from all over around the motu has…

University design student collaborates with global creative group

A bright blue avatar created by a University of Waikato design student is on show…