The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has committed to investing R60 million in South Africa’s cyberinfrastructure over the next three years.
The DST funding will go towards two initiatives – setting up a regional data centre, and a national e-science teaching and training platform. The decision to embark on these two projects was taken in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the aim is to address “the growing demand for big data facilities in research and business, as well as boost the local universities.”
The DST also believes that its investment will advance the government’s National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS). The NICIS currently consists of the Centre for High Performance Computing, the South African National Research Network, and the Data-Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa.
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, an international endeavour to build the world’s largest radio telescope, is scheduled to start in 2017/18 and South Africa will need substantial data centre facilities to store the data when the radio telescope is live.
The department says its first project, the establishment of a data centre, “will be a shared resource, focused initially on astronomy and bioinformatics, supporting major initiatives such as the MeerKAT and SKA and the DST’s bio-economy strategy.” A consortium under the leadership of the University of Cape Town (UCT) has been awarded this project.
According to the department, its second project, creating a national e-science teaching and training platform, will focus on improving the training of postgraduate students in the fast growing cross-discipline of e-science. This initiative has been granted to a consortium led by the University of the Witwatersrand. Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape will be involved in both consortia.
Bruce Mellado, professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Physics, praised the DST’s plans, saying that “it is a smart way of utilising computing resources,” and UCT professor Russ Taylor believes “this will best position the country to play a significant role in global scientific collaboration across the disciplines.”