Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says the South African government has identified the construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) as a strategic infrastructure project overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee.
The Deputy President says it is anticipated that this will lead to new innovations in manufacturing and construction.
“The SKA forms part of efforts to transform South Africa’s economy through human capital development, innovation, value addition, industrialisation and entrepreneurship,” he said, speaking at his visit to the site of SKA in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape on Saturday.
He said the project will create jobs not only during the next decade or so of construction, but also for the next 50 years of operation and maintenance.
“The SKA project, which is aligned with the African Union’s 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa, will help drive human capital development on the continent. It will contribute to Africa’s efforts to build innovation-led, knowledge-based economies,” he said.
He said this is in efforts that seek to harness science, technology and innovation to advance the continent’s developmental goals.
The SKA is a global science and engineering project to build the world’s largest radio telescope, and the Deputy President said it will collect and process vast amounts of data, which will require and encourage significant advances in high-performance computing.
“Producing the thousands of dishes required for the SKA will demand an entirely new way of building highly sophisticated and sensitive scientific instruments,” said the Deputy President.
Youth Development
Deputy President Ramaphosa said the 699 students and postdoctoral fellows that have been supported through the SKA South Africa bursary and fellowship programme are at the forefront of leading the project.
He said this project is developing technical and artisan skills while producing a new cohort of young scientists.
“Scientists are not born. They are made. They are the products of a society that values knowledge, promotes learning and rewards innovation. They are products of a society that reads, of schools that work and parents that are engaged in the intellectual development of their children.
“We need universities that have the academic capacity and financial resources to conduct ground-breaking research, companies that are prepared to dedicate resources to research and development, understanding that sustained profitability depends on innovative products and evolving ways of working, schools that have libraries, and schools that have capable and enthusiastic teachers of maths, science and language,” he said.
National Development Plan
He said Science and technology can do much in the fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The Deputy President said the National Development Plan (NDP) highlights the vital role played by science, technology and innovation in national development and equitable growth.
“Throughout human history, technological progress has fuelled economic and social development. From agriculture to commerce, from health care to communications, from manufacturing to education, technology has transformed the human experience,” he said.
He said while the first phase of the SKA will be situated in South Africa and Australia, there are currently 11 countries that participate as members of the SKA Organisation.
“Around 100 organisations from about 20 countries have been participating in the design and development of the SKA. It is particularly significant that eight other African countries will be involved in hosting the second phase of the project. This promises to establish Africa as a hub for expanding scientific inquiry,” he said.
He said the Square Kilometre Array will be a revolutionary new radio telescope, and it will be a highly flexible instrument designed to address fundamental questions in astrophysics, fundamental physics, cosmology, particle astrophysics and astrobiology.
“Through the SKA we will be able to probe the cosmic Dark Ages and previously unexplored parts of the distant universe. We will use it to search for planets and black holes, and examine galaxy evolution, cosmology and dark energy, in search of answers to fundamental questions about our origins and how the universe works,” he said.
He said government commends, encourages and supports partnerships between the SKA Project Office and the private sector that are transforming the lives of our communities in the Northern Cape.
“We are witnesses to human capital development through a bursary programme for learners in the surrounding areas of Williston, Brandvlei, Van Wyksvlei and Carnarvon,” he said.
He encouraged all to work together to expand knowledge and apply what is discovered to improve the condition of all life on the earth.
“Let us work together to explore the history of our universe and, in doing so, secure our common future,” said the Deputy