DST invests millions to expand cyberinfrastructure

With the growing demand for big data facilities in research and business, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) continues to invest in growing the country's cyberinfrastructure.

The investment is also a boost to local universities that will be taking the lead in these initiatives.

In furthering implementation of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS), the DST and its entity the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have made two awards to establish additional cyberinfrastructure projects.

Currently, NICIS consists of the Centre for High Performance Computing, the South African National Research Network, and the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa. These are managed by the CSIR Meraka Institute.

The first additional cyberinfrastructure project involves the establishment of an initial regional data centre (or node) - others could follow - that will eventually form a national network, supporting a wide range of data-intensive scientific activities as part of NICIS.

This data centre will be a shared resource, focused initially on astronomy and bioinformatics, supporting major initiatives such as the MeerKAT/Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the DST's Bio-economy Strategy.

A consortium, led by the University of Cape Town, has been awarded this project.

The second project centres on the establishment of a national e-science teaching and training platform. This facility is intended to lead the development of suitable curricula and pedagogic interventions to advance the training of postgraduate students in the rapidly developing cross-discipline of e-science. This project has been awarded to a consortium led by the University of the Witwatersrand.

With the vast Northern Cape being home to mega astronomy initiatives like the MeerKAT/SKA and the Southern African Large Telescope, it is important to note that the province's new Sol Plaatje University will be involved in both consortia.

The university's strategic focus is on information technology skills development, and the province will benefit from these projects. The DST is keen to see the province's young people skilled as a result of such initiatives so that they can take up opportunities offered by the astronomy projects in the area.

The DST will invest a total of approximately R60 million over three years on the establishment of the national e-science teaching and training platform and the regional data centre.

The DST believes cooperation of South African universities and research councils on such strategic matters is important for the country's future. The big data revolution involves a transition in which data becomes a new resource for economic development, and success or failure depends on the capacity to manage and manipulate massive volumes of data in order to extract information.

Source: Department of Science and Technology's Entities

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