United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) has come out strongly to champion the development and harnessing of HPC in Africa. USIU in partnership with Carnegie Africa Diaspora fellowship program (CADFP) and Intel under the umbrella High Performance Computing Consortium-Africa (HPC2-Africa) hosted four days’ conference at USIU and UNEA to discuss HPC, Big Data and Research.
As already discussed here High Performance Computing (HPC) is the practice of aggregating computing power to achieve much higher performance in comparison to performance that could be delivered from a single computing device. At the USIU conference, majority of the speakers believed that not much is happening in Africa at the moment in terms of research and high power computing. A situation that can be changed, through deliberate change of policies, and the willingness to invest on Research, Science and technology. Africa is a home to 13.4 of the world population with only 1.1% of world researchers and 1 % world research output. It is not a secret that we can’t solve our problems without looking for the solutions through the research.
USIU and their partners feel that creating HPC centre would be the starting point and they have agreed to provide the space and manpower to get it off the ground. According to USIU HPC promise a transformation framework for the development of Africa following are some of the potential benefits for Africa:
- Food security: Climate research and weather prediction are critical if Africa is to weather the ravages of climate change. Predicting weather accurately will enable countries to make better long term food security policies, environmental policies and interventions and even security policies.
- Health and life sciences: Gene sequencing, molecular research and bio-physical simulations can all support development of effective medicine and vaccines for diseases like Malaria and HIV in Africa currently ravaging Africa. HPCs can help researchers explore Africa’s abundance of natural remedies. Epidemic modeling can predict disease spread so that governments and healthcare providers can make appropriate interventions.
- Oil, gas and mineral exploration: Africa has an abundance of natural resources and access to HPC platforms can speed up seismic analysis which can bolster exploration and exploitation.
- Grow of industry and SMEs: Industry and SMEs are increasingly dependent on the power of supercomputers to discover innovative solutions, cut costs and reduce time to market products and services. Sectors such as retail, manufacturing and financial services will benefit from HPCs power in data analysis for insights and innovation.
- Economic research: Economic modeling using big and open data would lead to insights and contribute to evidence-based policy making.
- Increase research collaboration between Africa and other parts of the world: Having local capacity for large data processing means African scientists can better contribute to the global research agenda, provide tools for wider collaboration with research colleagues globally
But for this to work they need the support of the Government and other stakeholders. It is important to note that the Cabinet Secretary for ICT Mr. Joe Mucheru opened the conference and pledged to support the initiative going forward. Now whether that pledge will amount to the support the USIU were looking for is still to be seen. But of more important for the success of HPC is the collaboration between the universities, researchers, NGOs and the private sector.