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

6. Progress to date and the way ahead

Funding, at this stage largely from government, has been secured for the establishment of the central physical facility together with the appointment of scientific and technical staff by mid-2006. This major milestone has been preceded by a period of intensive planning extending over more than two years, in which stakeholders such as senior representatives of universities, the research community, relevant industries, and members of national government departments have worked to construct a common vision, strategy, and plan for operationalisation. In this regard, a key advisory role has been played by international colleagues with expertise in the establishment of HPCs. Linkages with similar facilities in developing countries such as Brazil and India are seen as essential to the success of the South African project, given this country's largely developing economy. And in this regard discussions have been held with CDAC in India with a view to establishing a relationship similar to that envisaged with LNCC in Brazil.

A key objective will be that of identifying projects that will be supported through the CHPC. These will be identified through a dual process of solicitation of proposals on the one hand and identification of project areas, typically of national importance, on the other, which are deemed to be appropriate for location in the CHPC. Project areas that are of interest include those in materials modelling and minerals processing and computational fluid dynamics with potential impact on mining and materials-related industries; bioinformatics and medical imaging technologies with impact on the health and pharmaceutical sector; geophysics with impact on the oil exploration industry; computational chemistry, drug discovery and design, HIV/AIDS research, molecular modelling to improve process mining; climate systems modelling, which can be used to study climate change and for disaster forecasting; radio-astronomy and astrophysics with particular reference to the SKA project; image and visualisation technologies which impact the film making and tourism industries; and defence applications such as radar detection and advanced weaponry development.

In this millennium we will see the use of computers become critical to problems as diverse as drug design to combat diseases malaria and HIV/AIDS through the development of models for predicting drought and preventing crop failures. High performance computing is now being positioned at the centre of innovative technologies. The impact of design through scientific computing on economies driven by innovation will be significant.

The creation of a national Centre for High Performance Computing will permit South African scientists and engineers to be active at the cutting edge of their respective research disciplines within a vibrant intellectual atmosphere. The benefits of the linkage between research and innovation that is enabled through the CHPC will be felt not only in university laboratories but throughout the wider South African economy. The building of a critical mass in state-of-the-art high-performance computing equipment as well as high-level scientific computing expertise in an intellectual common space will be central to achieving the goal of making the African Renaissance a reality.


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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/

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