Africa is no longer the Dark Continent as African researchers have now joined the data game and they are implementing extensive rigour in working with data, opening up new career opportunities. Big data research arrived in Africa when the huge telescope dishes were set up in remote parts of South Africa and the data generated was needed to be analyzed. Now, it has been picked up by the continent’s finest developers and they are now contributing towards making the biggest radio telescope in the world a reality. Surprising it may seem, the once ignored part of the world is now part of one of the greatest scientific endeavours the world has ever seen.
The universities of South Africa are heavily involved in it with North-West University, University of the Western Cape and University of Cape Town running the major part of the research in partnership. Together, they have formed the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy or IDiA, a crucial intervention in making this project successful. It is important to discuss IDiA and its scopes to realize what big data is shaping in Africa.
Why the new organization?
IDiA is creating a platform for researchers to come together from various backgrounds like computer science, astronomy and statistics to create a unique possibility for data science. The platform will be in full swing from the first half of 2018 and it will bring about a revolution in big data by using radio data and its five year operation is bound to throw up new directions in data science.
It is also training researchers to utilize the data at hand and also letting remote teams work with this data to establish the internationalist nature of the project. It is looking towards global collaborations with Netherlands leading the charge in creating an Advanced European Network that will take care of the E-infrastructure of astronomy. The new project is surely going to flood the system with data with 100 TB data per day and it is important to harness and analyse this data properly. Hence, large scale collaboration is necessary where cloud intervenes to provide storage support.
Big data’s unseen powers
State-of-the-art tools are being implemented currently with a remarkably powerful VM to take care of the data initiative. The project is also trying to innovate regarding the big data tasks. Recently, they worked with 50 students who went on to solve a challenging analysis on optical images that included statistics as well as documentation of the process.
There are multiple points of excitement regarding this project. First of all, IDiA, along with African Research Cloud or ARC, the data platform of the organization, can provide brilliant training facility to train groups of researchers to manage big data by working on the available data. This data can be shared in a safe environment to build intellectual capacity to tackle big data problems of the future. Also, cloud’s intervention allows the process a high degree of flexibility and requires much less workforce to manage the storage. By eliminating unnecessary technical hassles and focussing on data, it is trying to set its priorities right from the very beginning.
Africa being at the helm of things makes it more interesting because of the recent breakthrough in malaria medicine through big data achieved in Africa. This early success in fact paved way for the collaboration and they are always open to multinational interventions as long as it projects Africa on the global map of IT. As big data capacity develops further, it will be interesting to see whether it can churn out new international partnerships and influence new innovations or not.