499. We thank the co-sponsors for introducing the topic of regional innovation models as part of the theme on intellectual property and innovation. South Africa, together with partners from the African region and other international partner has embarked on collaboration that seeks to expand locally developed technologies. This is based on a national innovation strategy that coordinates partnerships between state departments, private companies and other social partners. For this purpose we have turned our gaze to the heavens.
500. As a man of science, I am certain you share certain existentialist questions that many millions of other people pose, such as why are we here or where did we come from. According to the Soshongo people of Central Africa, before we existed there was only darkness, water and the great god Sumba. One day Sumba, in pain from a stomach ache, vomited up the sun. The sun evaporated some of the water, leaving land, still unwell he vomited the moon, the stars and the leopard, the crocodile, the turtle and finally humans. Sounds familiar?
501. South Africa is building the Karoo Array Telescope, in the current iteration called the MeerKAT, which is a precursor instrument for the Square Kilometer Array instrument, but in its own right is amongst the largest and most powerful radio telescopes in the world. The MeerKAT is being constructed adjacent to the site proposed for the SKA - in short - near the small town of Carnarvon in the Northern Cape Province. The first time the MeerKAT telescope turned its eyes towards the sky, it discovered more than 1,200 galaxies that were previously unknown in a remote corner of the universe where only 70 galaxies were known to exist before. It will also be the first time that a group of African countries, under the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (AVN) project, will host this kind of scientific infrastructure which I am presenting about.
502. It is hoped the further development of the MeerKAT technology will also assist in preparing local industry for deeper participation in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project once the construction phase begins in 2018. To this end, SKA has a growing intellectual property register and has begun the commercialization processes for four technologies, namely, the SKA Reconfigurable Architecture Board (SKARAB), the Real-time Transient Analyser (RTA), IRONHIVE which is a robust, high speed, low cost high-performance computing solution, and the DSS which is a robust, low-cost data storage solution.
503. The SKA, of which a global project consists of South Africa and nine Member countries, will join approximately 100 organisations and companies from 20 countries to participate in the design and development of the SKA.
504. The SKA is being developed in two phases, between 2018 and the late 2020s. When fully operational, the SKA will comprise a forest of 3,000 dishes spread across several countries that will allow astronomers to peer deeper into space in unparalleled detail. It will have a discovery potential that is ten times greater than the most advanced modern instruments and will explore exploding stars, black holes, dark energy and traces of the universe's origins some 14 billion years ago.
505. The programme will help develop international competiveness of African scientists and is closely linked to, as I have already indicated, the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (AVN) project which is a network of capable radio telescopes being constructed across the African continent, hosted by the eight SKA African partner countries. The telescopes will form part of a global network and are intended to prepare the African partners to play their part in hosting the SKA. Amongst the endeavours that this particular project seeks to stimulate, it is to ensure the transfer necessary and appropriate skills and knowledge in African partner countries to build, maintain and operate radio telescopes. Good progress has thus far been made in growing the readiness to host SKA-2 in conjunction with partner countries, such as Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.
506. To this end, the African Ministerial Forum has been created and will convene to annually assist progress that has been made in respect of the implementation of the project and to provide political and strategic leadership. Amongst the matters that will be discussed by this forum include human capacity development and institutional capacity-building, technology transfer, Big Data Africa and strategic partnerships and funding.
507. A concept proposal for establishing high performance computing in each of the SKA African partner countries was also accepted. I think I will stop here and I thank Members for their attention.