Private partnerships key for SKA success
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) says it is gearing up for strategic partnerships with private sector companies on developing scientific human capacity.
With a decision on the location for the billion rand Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project expected soon, the department noted that ICT infrastructure would be prioritised through the project.
“In this regard, engagements with ICT multinationals are expected to continue to grow in line with the implementation of the ICT roadmap. There is also keen interest in the development of next-generation technologies for the SKA and other radio astronomy initiatives,” said Science and Technology minister, Naledi Pandor.
She added that several agreements had been concluded with multinational companies such as Microsoft, Nokia and SAP.
Most recently, the department announced it anticipates working with IBM with the goal of developing a next generation big data analytics platform to better analyse large volumes of radio astronomy data.
SA is currently in the final stages of a bid to host the €1.5 billion global SKA project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Sites in South Africa and Australia have been short-listed to host the central core of the SKA telescope.
The African SKA site bid is led by South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and includes Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Mauritius, Kenya and Ghana.
As part of the African commitment to the SKA project, SA is building the Karoo Array Telescope – the MeerKAT, in the Northern Cape. When completed in 2016, this precursor will be a demonstration telescope of technologies being considered for the SKA.
MeerKAT will consist of 64 dish antennas, each 13.5 m in diameter that is sensitive to emission from cosmic sources at centimeter wavelengths. Huge volumes of data need to be combined to make detailed images of radio emission from distant objects like black holes, spinning neutron stars, planets, and galaxies. It will also map primeval gas before the galaxies formed, as observed at the edge of the visible universe.