IDIA - the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy was officially launched on 3 September 2015.
The Director of IDIA, Prof. Russ Taylor, invited the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, and representatives from the IDIA partners and involved stakeholders to celebrate the launch, which was held at the SAAO auditorium.
Minister Pandor participated in the ceremonial cake cutting and delivered a speech in which she outlined the opportunity that Africa has in the face of the rising need of data scientists. "Our challenge in Africa is to use big data to find answers to big science questions. To do that, we have to develop capacity in Africa”, said Minister Pandor.
The R50m, 5-year IDIA partnership aims to develop this capacity - through the construction of an advanced data centre and the development of several programmes to grow the required expertise in big data.
Dr Max Price, the Vice-Chancellor of UCT, mentioned the importance of developing the knowledge capacity in South Africa. He said, "The risk is that we become servants of scientists around the world and not a team and a country that can generate its own knowledge and that can play in the big league."
In addition to addressing the challenge of MeerKAT and the SKA, IDIA will create a platform for capacity development and skills enrichment to deal with issues and challenges beyond astronomy.
"IDIA will make a significant and broad contribution to the research enterprise in South Africa. Through a focused research and training program in data-intensive science, IDIA will drive innovation in big data solutions that will have impact beyond astronomy.” added Minister Pandor, who emphasised the importance of an education in data science in support of the undergraduate programme in data science at the Sol Plaatje and the MSc in Data Science at UCT.