Programme Director;

Conference Delegates;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

The first CHPC National Conference was held 10 years ago, in 2007.  The annual conference has developed into the most prominent high-performance computing conference event in Africa, drawing a large contingent of delegates from South Africa and abroad.

 

Today, the Centre for High Performance Computing has a valuable opportunity to engage with its local and continental users.  We are fortunate to have with us renowned experts in the high-performance computing domain, hardware and software vendors, prominent sponsors, and students from this country and many others.

 

South Africa's national efforts to become globally competitive and significantly improve people's quality of life is driven and coordinated in the policy environment of the National Development Plan, which targets an economic growth rate of at least 5,4% to ensure that the country is globally competitive.  To achieve and sustain such growth, South Africa needs to ramp up public and private sector investment in the capacity to create and diffuse new knowledge. 

 

The Department of Science and Technology has done its level best to ensure that South African researchers and scientists have access to modern and relevant research infrastructure, allowing them to conduct world-class research and develop human capital. 

 

One of the DST's interventions is the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System, or NICIS, which is aimed at promoting computing, and providing network and data technology tools across all sectors.  With this in mind, the CHPC endeavours to promote an array of vibrant and productive computational research communities.

 

It is interesting that high-performance computing is gaining currency in non-traditional market applications, largely due to its convergence with cloud computing, and the emergence of artificial intelligence and strengthening of machine learning in broader applications.

 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us.  Industries will need to use data analytics for accurate and more advanced decision-making.  Their ability to meet challenges and stay competitive will depend on –

  •          the availability of skilled personnel to analyse large volumes of complex data;
  •        access to high-end computing infrastructure so that they can process data quickly, have adequate data storage, and access tools for data security and exploration.

 

We have seen many countries preparing to meet these challenges, and developing strategies to ensure that the new industrial revolution does not leave them behind.  South Africa has invested heavily in cyberinfrastructure, and will use these facilities to prepare the country for the future.

 

The Department of Science and Technology's strategy is to develop new industries during this wave, and hence small, medium and micro-enterprises are also on our radar, with initiatives like the technology stations programme receiving funding through the Technology Innovation Agency.  We have intensified our communication to ensure that the industries involved are aware of the support they can get from NICIS.

 

Our investment in the high performance computing infrastructure has been ramped-up significantly over the past 10 years, as evidenced by our Leadership Machine Lengau, which was installed in 2016 and attained computing capacity of 1.029 PetaFLOPS.

 

How powerful or fast is a petaflop machine? Currently the fastest supercomputer in the world, as ranked by the Top500 list, is the K Computer built by Fujitsu in Japan is a 10.51 petaflops (10,510,000,000,000,000 flops) machine. To get an idea how fast is petaflop machine, we would need 61 million! iPad 2s to match the processing power of the K Computer - that makes a pile of iPad 2 units about 540 km high or the equivalent of almost 1,700 Eiffel Towers.

Lengau is currently number 165 on the global TOP500 list of supercomputers, and could perform quadrillion (or 10 to the power 15) instructions per second. This means that simulations of rechargeable batteries, that used to take 11 days is now reduced to less than 18 hours. These are performances we need to propel our initiatives for the fourth industrial revolution, for the country to remain competitive.

 

It is generally appreciated that there are enormous benefits to integrating national cyberinfrastructure into a cluster of mutually supporting activities.  This requires high-level synergy in terms of strategic planning, financial management and oversight.  Cyberinfrastructure is positioned favourably to make a positive contribution to the growth of most knowledge-intensification strategies in existing and new industries.

 

This integrated cyberinfrastructure will promote national socio-economic development through new forms of scientific and industrial development.  It will provide an opportunity to solve previously intractable computational challenges of national importance; harness big data; enable national and international science and education collaboration through high-speed networking; and support South Africa’s role and positioning in big science endeavours such as the Square Kilometre Array initiative.

 

The SKA Readiness Initiative driven by the Department of Science and Technology, has enabled us to build HPC capacity in the eight African partner countries in the SKA project. The future vision of this project is to have a seamless access to computing and data resources by researchers, through the African Research Cloud, which will be anchored on this infrastructure.

 

The Data-Intensive Research Initiative for South Africa, part of NICIS, is actively collaborating with international data organisations like CODATA, the Research Data Alliance and the World Data System to develop localised standards and policies governing the security, privacy and ethical use of data.

 

As an indication of our resolve to grow in this space, DIRISA has submitted an expression of interest to host International Data Week 2018 in South Africa.  If the bid succeeds, we will see more than 800 data experts and researchers from all disciplines and from across the globe in South Africa.

 

The implementation of NICIS has already yielded positive results.  Fifty gigabytes per second of the South African National Research Network's West Africa Cable System international capacity was activated and changed for 50 Gbps of SEACOM capacity, increasing the total international connectivity available for the South African higher education and research communities six-fold, to 60 Gbps.

 

The general lowering of the cost of bandwidth has ensured that more bandwidth is available for the same investment or less, thereby promoting equitable access to services and research collaboration by connecting rural campuses, and enabling the introduction of new technologies and services to enhance teaching and training.  All this contributed to the government's targets of 10% Internet access in 2010.

 

This annual conference will definitely be enriched by exploring the diverse contributions and expectations of policy makers, research communities, information communication vendors, industry and academia through a series of contributed and invited papers, presentations and open discussion forums.

 

The Department of Science and Technology is committed to investing in science, technology, engineering and innovation, including the establishment and support of research institutions.  This kind of government assistance fosters the creation and dissemination of knowledge and a country-level climate of innovation, and has a strong influence on the long-term competitiveness of the country’s information communication and technology sector.  There is no doubt that a country’s ICT sector is critical to its long-term economic prosperity and growth.

 

A globally competitive ICT and cyberinfrastructure sector creates a sustainable ecosystem and enables researchers and scientists to compete globally. The provision of modern, well-funded cyberinfrastructure facilities for South African researchers and research institutions is a key responsibility of the Department of Science and Technology, and will be systematically pursued in close consultation with all the relevant stakeholders.

 

I have followed the challenges that computing faces as we keep pushing the boundaries for more computational power. For example, Moore’s law seems to be reaching its limit due to power and cooling demands. The limitation on the number of processors we put on a Silicon, and the corresponding unbearable heat, that needs to be extracted are a reality.

 

Hence, we look at the prospects of novel technologies, such as quantum computing. This compels the country to keep investing in cyber-infrastructure research to contribute to the search for solutions.  In positioning the country to respond to these challenges, the DST is currently supporting a research chair (Professor Petruccione, UKZN) in Quantum Information Processing and Communication.

 

The programme of this meeting, following its theme, are testimony to your intention to explore these topics, and I am encouraged.

 

I am sure that much will be learnt from this conference.

 

Thank you.