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The African Connection

4 Aug 2017, 16:00 UTC
The African Connection
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Introduction“Africa is the greatest untapped pool of scientific talent anywhere, and no one realizes this.” These are the words of Neil Turok, the South African cosmologist and founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) graduate program. Despite this, Africa’s ballooning population is undergoing rapid technological change. The tech sector is blowing wide open. Cell phone infrastructure has spread like lightning and supports the widespread use of WhatsApp, Facebook, and mobile money. People are more connected and technology-dependent than ever before.The International Astronomical Union (IAU) marked Sub-Saharan Africa for “special attention” in a Strategic Plan to use astronomy for global development in 2010-2020. This was followed in 2011 by the founding of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) to help implement the Plan’s ambitions.I asked OAD Director Kevin Govender what astronomically-related skills are most needed in sub-Saharan Africa. In an email, he notes that there are three major ongoing projects. They include the optical facilities of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) like the South African Large Telescope (SALT); radio facilities including the Karoo Array Telescope, the Square Kilometer Array, and the African Very Large Baseline Interferometer (VLBI); and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) gamma-ray facility in ...

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