In partnership with Intel and Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP), USIU-Africa hosted the HPC for Research and Innovation Forum on Friday, December 1, 2017, in the auditorium.
The forum brought together over 200 participants drawn from academia, industry and government agencies, to share insights on how HPCs can deliver gains through research and innovation to Africa.
High Performance Computing (HPC) is the concentration of computing resources to achieve higher rates of output in a manner that is fast, consistent and reliable and at scale. HPCs work on computational problems that are either too large for standard computers or would otherwise take too long to solve.
The Chancellor Dr. Manu Chandaria in his opening remarks noted the dire need for cooperation among stakeholders to achieve developmental goals, “HPCs when employed in Africa through the partnership of governments, private and public entities will see us use big data for research and innovation that will reduce disease epidemics, food crisis, growth in industries and in overall improve the continent’s GDP.”
His remarks were echoed by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza who underlined the University's commitment through its investment in robust STEM programs such as Applied Computer Technology, Information Systems and Technology and the new undergraduate program in Epidemiology and Biostatics, to "solve existing and emerging social, environmental, political, business and economic challenges facing Kenya, other developing nations and the world at large.”
The Keynote address was delivered by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology Hon. Joseph Mucheru, who underlined the government's commitment to HPC stating that “the government is extremely committed in transforming Kenya to a digital economy that will aid improve food security, health, increase jobs and this can be done once we demystify the capabilities of HPC to all stakeholders.”
Three panel discussions took place throughout the day. The first dwelt on applying the HPC concept to development priority areas in Africa, and was moderated by Dr. Faye Briggs (President and CEO of Niminq, Inc - a Data Center & Big Data Solution Company - and Adjunct Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University). During the session, Mr. Edward Rakate from the Center for High Performance Computing in Cape Town, South Africa elaborated on his nation's investment in High Performance Computing and the pivotal collaborative relationship between the South African Government, which runs the Center, and universities which partner and plug into the Center to access its shared resources.
Dr. Paul Okanda (ICT Director) moderated a mid-morning session on "Role of HPC in Advancing Research, Teaching and Innovation" where universities' role in spreading the use of HPCs in other continents, and their need to develop academic programs that build on high performance computing power was reiterated.
Dr. Briggs also moderated the afternoon session that dwelt on "Big Data, Research and Development" where it was agreed that universities need to cooperate, and together with government lead the adoption of high performance computing, in order to use the large volume of data being generated, and to develop home-grown data-driven solutions to the continent's problems.
The forum concluded with awards to three students with the best projects that featured HPC applications. The Air Quality Monitoring Unit team comprising Max Musau (MBA), Bob Aftwa (APT Junior), Vishaal Ravalia (APT Junior) and Advait Joshi (APT Junior), used a sensor to sample air in order to determine the level of pollutants in that sample. The large volume of data collected would then be processed through a high performance computing device.
The first runner- up - Abishek Kapila (APT Senior) - designed a Distributed Raspberry Pi system which deployed low-power embedded devices using distributed computing in circumstances where a typical high performance computing environment may not be accessible.
Finally, second runner-up was Zebedee Wanyonyi (APT Senior) who used an Internet of Things transport solution around monitoring road conditions. Using various sensors such as geometers, gyroscopes to collect data from individual vehicles, his system could be used to map road conditions for use by other drivers, and road safety authorities.