4 years ago

Northern Cape Business 2018-19 edition

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Officially supported and used by the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Northern Cape Business is unique as a business and investment guide that focuses exclusively on the Northern Cape Province. In addition to comprehensive overviews of sectors of the economy, this publication has several special articles which focus on transformative projects, such as the solar and wind farms rapidly coming on line and the massive potential represented by the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, a multi-billion rand international project already taking shape in the vast open plains of the Karoo. Updated information on Northern Cape is also available through our monthly e-newsletter, which you can subscribe to online at, in addition to our complementary business-to-business titles that cover all nine provinces as well as our flagship South African Business title.


SPECIAL FEATURE Square Kilometre Array Telescope Unimaginable amounts of data will be collected in this transformative radio telescope project in the Karoo. The data that the SKA will collect in a day would take two-million years to play back on an iPod. The radio telescope’s image-resolution quality will exceed that of the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50. These, and other similarly impossible-sounding statements, are the stock-in-trade of press releases and announcements about the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) South Africa. Its cost is vast, the scope of its investigations of the universe is huge, its footprint across Africa (and Australia) is immense. Nothing about SKA is ordinary. It is a transformative scientific scheme with wide-ranging implications for the province, for South Africa, and for the world and our understanding of how the world came to be. The SKA will be the world’s largest radio telescope, made up of thousands of antennae throughout Australia and Africa, centred on the area around Carnarvon in the Northern Cape. SKA will be tackling the big questions: What is dark matter? When did life begin? How are galaxies created? South Africa’s own 64-dish MeerKAT telescope, which will form part of the SKA, started coming on line in 2016. Once all 64 dishes are operational, a cellular phone signal from Saturn will be within the scope of this amazing set of instruments. A new body is to be established to oversee all astronomy in South Africa. The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) is to be classified as a National Research Facility. This is an effort by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to consolidate South Africa’s radio astronomy facilities. Sites to fall under SARAO include the MeerKAT and KAT-7 telescopes in the Karoo, the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in the North West province, the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) in nine African countries, as well as various training programmes and commercial enterprises arising out of projects. South Africa is one of only three countries to have passed legislation to create an Astronomy Reserve and this helped persuade the international decision-makers that South Africa should be the host (with Australia) of the SKA. There are 17 countries on the project, with the headquarters in NORTHERN CAPE BUSINESS 2018/19 24

SPECIAL FEATURE Manchester, England. In Africa, a total of eight countries will host SKA antennae, including Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. The town of Sutherland, 245km south-west of the site of SKA, already hosts an array of telescopes with a long history of providing scientists with excellent data in clear skies above the flat and dry Karoo. Sectors in the Northern Cape to benefit include tourism and hospitality. A number of local firms have become involved through the provision of at least 75% of the components. To ensure that local contractors have access to some of the work, the Kareeberg and Karoohoogland Contractors’ Forum was established. Ten local contractors are receiving training in how to prepare to tender for projects, with a particular focus on the 80km road that links the town of Carnarvon to the SKA site. Universities Four South African universities are members of the international organisation, Inter-University Institute Date Intensive Astronomy (IDIA). The departments of Physics at the universities of the Western Cape and Pretoria belong, as does the Astronomy Department of the University of Cape Town and the Centre for Space Research (North West University). Among the projects undertaken by IDIA are CyberSKA (a social networking function where scientists can put together research teams, collaborate on papers and plan projects), the African Research Cloud, which is testing models for dealing with large amounts of data, and a Data Intense Research Facility. The last of these provides for storage capacity that will accommodate post-processing algorithms, analytics and data mining. A new optical telescope was unveiled as part of the MeerKAT project at Sutherland in May 2018. The MeerLICHT telescope will take an optical image of the radio sky projected by MeerKAT every 60 seconds, which will then immediately be processed by the computers at IDIA. The MeerLICHT is a multinational project (South Africa, the Netherlands, the UK) involving scientists from six institutions and forming part of a broader National Department of Science and Technology multi-wavelength astronomy (MWA) strategy. The aim is to bring optical, gamma ray, radio and optical astronomy communities closer together and to use facilities across the three nations to best effect. Another project resulting from MeerKAT is MeerTRAP, which will be searching for fast transients and pulsars. MeerTRAP is funded by the European Research Council. A Big Data summer school was held in Cape Town in 2017. A partnership between Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the event exposed students from various academic backgrounds to the fundamentals of big data research. This included practical sessions in astronomy, bioinformatics and health sciences, and tackling the transfer of knowledge in the area of data science using a multi-disciplinary approach. The funding partner for the study programme is the Newton Fund through Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA). The Newton Fund is supported by the UK government. 25 NORTHERN CAPE BUSINESS 2018/19

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