Sifelani Tsiko Senior Writer
Zimbabwe has launched its first ever $5,4 million high performance computing centre becoming the third African country to have such IT infrastructure which aims to address the computational requirements of the wider scientific community in the country.Representing President Mugabe at the launch of the Zimbabwe Centre for High Performance Computing (Zim-CHPC) at the University of Zimbabwe last Friday, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo said the launch of the computing centre epitomised the country’s understanding of the power of ICTs in its development trajectory.
“Science and technology are mutually reinforcing,” he said. “The maximum use of modern technologies can stir economic development. Zimbabwe has become the third African country to own such high performance computers after South Africa and Sudan. We want this centre to support high-end scientific research.”
Dr Chombo said the new high-performance computing facility would enable cutting-edge research with a positive impact on the economy.
The High Performance Computing Centre, housed at the UZ was built by China’s major computer and server manufacturer Inspur Group with a $5,4 million interest-free loan from the Chinese government.
Dr Chombo also unveiled a plaque bearing President Mugabe’s name. The project was implemented by the Inspur Group, a renowned Chinese IT company and the Zimbabwe government after the signing of bilateral agreements.
President Mugabe visited the company’s headquarters in August last year. The Chinese firm took 10 months to install, test the equipment and to train local computer experts to man the centre.
A high performance computing centre or supercomputer is generally defined as a computer or array of computers that act as one collective machine capable of processing enormous amounts of data.
Supercomputers are used for complex jobs such as processing massive sets of data to find information, run simulations and solve large and complex problems.
Zimbabwe’s supercomputer has a processing capacity of 36 trillion calculations per second or network data storage capacity of 60 000 terabytes.
Speaking at the same event, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Cde Oppah Muchinguri said the centre will enable local scientific researchers and other stakeholders to process massive sets of data in forecasting weather patterns, conducting advanced agricultural research in livestock and food crop variety development as well as disease control and monitoring.
This centre, she said further, is the answer to the enormous and exponentially increasing quantities of data scientific methods needed in mining and mineral exploration, defence and security, bio-informatics, human genome research focusing on drug research, disease detection and prevention in the health sector.
It will also be critical in the storage and efficient processing of data in the field of marketing, accounting, product development, tax and revenue collection as well as economic analysis. Access to HPC technology has typically been outside the reach of most scientists and other interested businesses in the country due to limited infrastructure and prohibitive costs.
“Zimbabwe is known the world over for its exceptional quality of education and skilled human capital,” Cde Muchinguri said.
“The establishment of the HPC is another achievement for Zimbabwe and should receive due recognition as it will revolutionise and leap frog our national development agenda.”
And the introduction of the Zim-CPHC will provide university researchers and other stakeholders access to modern high performance computing capabilities.
Chinese Ambassador Lin Lin said the building of the HPC centre is an important part of the China-Zimbabwe co-operation that both sides should be proud of.
“With the broad applications of this HPC centre in many scientific areas such as weather forecasting, agriculture, biology, geography and others, it will build an excellent platform for the development of science and technology in Zimbabwe and will bring great benefits to Zimbabwe socially and economically,” he said.
Zimbabwe has in the past three years benefited from grants and interest-free loans worth more than $100 million from China. Zimbabwe and China enjoy good bilateral ties dating back to the liberation war era.
In August last year, President Mugabe visited China and spearheaded the clinching of nine major co-operation deals running into billions of dollars