February 2006
International Cyberinfrastructure: Activities Around the Globe
Rob Adam, Director General's Office - Department of Science and Technology, Pretoria
Cheryl de la Rey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor's Office, Research & Innovation - University of Cape Town
Kevin J. Naidoo, Computational Chemistry, Department of Chemistry - University of Cape Town
Daya Reddy, Centre for Research in Computational & Applied Mechanics - University of Cape Town

1. Introduction

In his 2002 State of the Nation address, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa singled out Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as "a critical and pervasive element in economic development," and recommended the establishment of an "ICT University." The National Research and Development Strategy of South Africa had earlier also clearly identified ICT as one of the key technology platforms of the modern age, and one which has a central place in initiatives aimed at promoting development in South Africa.

The vision presented by President Mbeki has taken concrete form in the establishment of the Meraka Institute, the purpose of which is to facilitate national economic and social development through human resource development and needs-based research and innovation, leading in turn to products, expertise and services related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC)1 is a component of the Meraka Institute. This article describes the objectives and structure of the CHPC and the progress that has been made to date in the establishment of this facility.

2. Background

South Africa is currently in the throes of expanding its scientific research and innovation base and is at the same time identifying focal directions, many of which have a direct link to social and economic development . While the National R&D Strategy sets the framework, there was a recognition that an ICT strategy was needed to chart a comprehensive national approach to ICT R&D in order to maximise its potential economic contribution. Through a co-ordinated national approach, a country like South Africa could not only develop the critical mass to boost it own national development, but also achieve international competitiveness in identified focal areas.

The overall purpose of the national ICT Strategy is to create an enabling environment for the advancement of ICT R&D and Innovation in identified domains. Computational Science and High Performance Computing are two of these. This stems from the firm recognition that access to high performance computing facilities is of central importance to the success of the technology missions identified in the National R&D Strategy. Key examples in this regard are Biotechnology, particularly with reference to research into the major infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, advanced manufacturing technology (e.g., computational simulations of design and manufacturing processes, and computational materials design), technologies to utilise and protect our natural resources and ensure food security (e.g., climate systems analysis and disaster forecasting), and technology for poverty reduction (e.g., behavioural modelling in social research; financial management; HPC in SMEs). Similarly, a number of science missions were identified in the R&D Strategy as standing to benefit from the establishment of an HPC; examples are the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the National Bioinformatics Network (NBN) and Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). High Performance Computing is therefore clearly perceived, in relevant national strategic plans, to be a platform for scientific and technological innovation through which the national R&D strategy can be accelerated. The dual impact of such a platform will be increased global competitiveness and improved local quality of life.

Funding for three years (2006-2008) has been secured for the high performance computing initiative. In addition, parallel investment in a South African National Research Network (SANReN), intended to provide high bandwidth connectivity for South African researchers, has been planned.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Reference this article
Adam, R., de la Rey, C., Naidoo, K., Reddy, D. "High Performance Computing in South Africa: Computing in Support of African Development," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 1, February 2006. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2006/02/high-performance-computing-in-south-africa-computing-in-support-of-african-development/

Any opinions expressed on this site belong to their respective authors and are not necessarily shared by the sponsoring institutions or the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Any trademarks or trade names, registered or otherwise, that appear on this site are the property of their respective owners and, unless noted, do not represent endorsement by the editors, publishers, sponsoring institutions, the National Science Foundation, or any other member of the CTWatch team.

No guarantee is granted by CTWatch that information appearing in articles published by the Quarterly or appearing in the Blog is complete or accurate. Information on this site is not intended for commercial purposes.