The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) has been branded as one of the biggest scientific projects to date and spans not only country borders but also continents. Although the SKA’s primary aim is to address many of the questions around our universe, the spin-offs of this project will touch people from all research disciplines as well as communities around the SKA sites.
One of the spin-offs is expanded human and infrastructure capacity in terms of High Performance Computing (HPC) in other African countries. The South African Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) is involved in a programme named the HPC Ecosystems Project. The Ecosystems Project focuses on the distribution of decommissioned HPC equipment to be used as mid-tier systems at various sites across Africa. This is followed with training of the system administrators to run the equipment.
Over the past few years the CHPC has been working with countries in Africa to:
- develop an African Framework on HPC that has been adopted by the SADC Ministerial Committee on Science and Technology;
- facilitate access for African researchers and students to HPC training programmes in South Africa;
- providing access to HPC facilities for researchers on the continent; and
- through the partnership with the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the University of Cambridge, parts of the HPC systems have been provided to African sites to develop computing capabilities.
The first country to host a Software Carpentry workshop in conjunction with the deployment of the donated HPC infrastructure is Mauritius. The event was sponsored by the CHPC, Talarify, and the University of Mauritius.
From 19 - 21 July this year, we ran a Software Carpentry workshop to potential users of the new, and first HPC system, at the University of Mauritius. Participants hailed from disciplines such as Bioinformatics, Computational Chemistry, Mathematics, Life Sciences, Engineering, Business, Medicine, and more. A total of 27 participants, mostly postgraduate students and faculty from the University of Mauritius, learned about the Linux Shell, Python, and version control with git and Github. The feedback in general was good (90% of the participants said they will recommend this workshop to colleagues) and several people indicated that they would be interested to become instructors. 50% of participants were females.
Mauritius is a fascinating country with total area around 2,040 km2 and a population of around 1,348,242. Over the past few years it has evolved from mostly an agricultural community to a knowledge economy with information and communication technology, seafood, hospitality and property development, healthcare, renewable energy, and education and training fast becoming large drivers of the economy. People mostly speak English and French with the local language, Creole also in the mix. The country has six universities and many other educational institutions.
It was a great opportunity to work with our host, Roshan Halkhoree (Director, Centre for Information Technology and Systems) and colleagues from the University of Mauritius and we look forward to future collaborations around data and computational capacity building.