SKA skills a major concern for South Africa

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As co-host of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, South Africa is in desperate need of more local skills to ensure that the country as a whole enjoys the benefits of the project.

The Head of astronomy at the National Research Foundation (NRF), Nithaya Chetty said that “It is going to be absolutely tragic, if all we do is build up the infrastructure and we don’t have sufficient African scientists to utilise the excellent facilities.”
“We have to train South Africans – many South Africans – so they can build careers and they can grow their career paths in the context of this huge instrument that’s going to be on our doorstep,” said National Research Foundation CEO Dr Albert van Jaarsveld.

South Africa is expected to become a global centre for information technology, fundamental physics, astronomy and high-tech engineering. Scientists and engineers around the world are expected to gather in Africa to get a piece of the action.

Two of the three biggest components of the SKA will be built in Africa, with the remainder to be built in Australia. About 70% of the facility will be built in Africa.

President Jacob Zuma earlier this year said that the SKA, “will propel our continent to the forefront of radio astronomy and will significantly advance our continent’s scientific endeavours for many years to come. There is no doubt that through this massive project, South Africa and the African continent will have much to offer the world of science and technology.”