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Speech for the permanent secretary of the Ministry Higher & Tertiary Education, Science & Technology Development.

PrologueLet me preface my remarks with the word of William Shakespeare, who said,

“There is a tide in the affair of men, which, taken at the flood, lead on to fortune. Omitted all the voyage of their life is bound in shallow and in miseries, on such a full sea are we not afloat. And we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures”.

Ladies and gentleman, with the launch of the HPC Centre today, the digital technology tide is upon us. This presents a great opportunity for us to break with many of challenges that we face. It is up to all of us therefore, to take full advantage of this technological windfall.

But what exactly is HPC?

This is the question that many may be asking but few can answer. High Performance Computing begins with Charles Babbage, a great Mathematician who started the binary system. Then came Seymore Grey of Manchester University, who with another designer, Atlas, went on to introduce innovative designs in parallelism to achieve superior computational peak performance using a series of computer.

What then is a supercomputer? It is a computer at the front line of processing capacity which can happen at trillion of floating point operations per second. Made up of systems with massive number of processors, it saves considerable time moving data around and makes it possible for processors to work together whilst each individual computer is receiving and completing many other tasks and reporting results to central server for integration.

The term ‘supercomputer’ and ‘supercomputing’ can be confusing because sometimes they are interchanged with the terms ‘high performance computers’ and high performance computing’. We now use high performance computers in advanced technology such as super computers and parallel processing of algorithms to figure out complex computational problems. Accordingly, the main objective of high performance computing is to solve complex computational problems that are too large or would take too long for stand-alone server computers.

In a nutshell for an example, we can use HPC for molecular modeling, climate change research, weather forecasting, quantum mechanics, gas exploration, computing structures and properties of chemical compounds and biological micro molecules, polymers and crystals.

Significance of the HPC Centre

The supercomputer is of immense national utility since it has many critical applications across wide range of conditions. The HPC Centre will be a world-class hub for high performance computing that will support high-end research in many disciplines. Our academics now therefore have technology to take research to another level. With this HPC Centre, we are moving closer to closing the technology divide between us and the developed world. Also, our Researchers that used to go abroad to carry out certain types of research can now do so here.

For our students, here is the digital heritage. We are engaged in a Programme of Re-tooling Institutions of Higher and Tertiary Education. The HPC Centre is the flagship of that Programme. Your concerns about the state of infrastructural in institutions are also our concerns. The PHC Centre is part of the response to these concerns. All this is being done in the framework of a broader thrust to enhance your conditions of learning and research. This technology frees up your time and extends your reach. Go for it!

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, shall, iacta alea est or the die is cast. How well the centre will be used and maintained remains to be seen. How much we will benefit from using the HPC will be for even greater interest. Uses and benefits are what separate white elephant from beehive. Just how will we respond to the establishment of a centre like this?

Ladies and gentlemen, I found an interesting analogy of people’s reaction to events in Chinese philosophy of Confucius where I read a proverb which says:

“When the winds of change blow

Some people will build walls

But others will build windmills”

Here we are. There is now an opportunity for us all to build windmills in the use of the High Performance Computer Centre.

I thank you.

BY

DR WASHINGTON MBIZVO

PERMANENT SECRETARY

AT

UNIVERSITY OF ZIMBABWE: 6 FEBRUARY 2015