HPC for Economic Growth and Development

This is an exciting period as emerging and frontier market economies (as defined by the financial sector) adopt advanced technologies for economic competitiveness, societal benefit, and scientific discovery. Most notably, these economies are evaluating and acquiring advanced information and communication technologies as competitive platforms for socio-economic benefit. The technology to watch is High Performance Computing (HPC). HPC acquisition is an indicator of national strategies to accelerate scientific discovery, engineering science, and innovation, along with focus on societal and economic benefit. I am following this evolution and will update my blog with the advances.

Countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia are strategizing on how best to incentivize the use of HPC for public good and have implementation activities. Recent reports indicate countries with HPC assets are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Brazil, Tanzania, Cuba, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates to name a few.

Reporting on recent meetings in sub-Saharan Africa, the South African Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) hosted a workshop on December 1, 2015 for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states with focus in High Performance Computing. Some of the countries in attendance were Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. Dr. Happy Sithole, CHPC Director, has been convening the HPC-focused member states for several years during the annual CHPC National Meeting.

I am pleased to share the following takeaways of the meeting:

  • Dr. Sithole announced, during the 2015 South Africa CHPC National Meeting, the installation of a new petascale supercomputer with commissioning Q1-Q2 2016. I partner with Dr. Sithole of CHPC to develop an Industrial Advisory Forum.  Stay tuned to case studies resulting from the engagement.  
  • Zimbabwe reported on the new 36 Teraflop system commissioned in February 2015. Heretofore, Zimbabwe did not have national HPC assets. Mr. Willie Ganda, Director of Research Development & Innovation at the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and Director of the Zimbabwe HPC center, told me at SC15 that the Zimbabwe academic community and the public sector are active first users of the HPC platform.  
  • Recently, Tanzania was the recipient of TACC decommissioned Ranger racks, which add to already existing national HPC assets.
  • The University of Botswana (UB), Faculty of Computer Science, is a recipient of TACC Rangers racks. Dr. Audrey Masizana, Chair of the Faculty of Computer Science, indicated that post-commissioning the first project on the HPC cluster will support a computational chemistry research collaboration between the UB Faculty of Chemistry and the University of Leeds.  
  • Lesotho earlier this year launched a national strategic planning process focused on the use of HPC for socio-economic benefit.

Clearly, sub-Saharan Africa is investing in advanced computing to enhance their economies and to strengthen the path from knowledge to value creation. South Africa is in the vanguard of African countries to engage the corporate community in HPC for economic competitiveness. Their activities will be closely followed by others as they consider overall optimization of HPC use.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is in the top 10 of the 2015 TOP500 List with the deployment of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University for Science and Technology supercomputer, Shaheen II. I look forward to updating on others in the MENA region.

The emerging and frontier economies are mobilizing to invest and utilize HPC for national strategic goals. Their success will depend upon HPC human capital development, industry engagement with HPC, and public sector use of HPC. The next five years will see tremendous growth in the acquisition, capability, and use of HPC in emerging and frontier market economies; stay tuned to this blog for more on the development.

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