How high performance computing can solve environmental challenges in Kenya

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This week, we had the UN Environment General Assembly and one of the main topics was how we can beat pollution.

Several forums were held to complement the process of collecting voluntary commitments by providing an opportunity for people to present how pollution affects them and what initiatives they have taken to beat pollution.

In the forum for High Performance Computing (HPC) and the Environment, we got to learn of how we can prepare for the future by the data we collect now. There are key sectors that were identified where we can apply HPC:

  • Energy
  • Health
  • Transport
  • Climate

Since this was a forum for Environment, a lot was focused on how we can save our planet using HPC. How can we integrate HPC in all the aspects that affect the environment?

To identify opportunities, researchers have had to look at environmental sustainability by asking the questions below:

  1. How do we increase productivity?
  2. How do we increase resilience?
  3. How do we reduce carbon emission?

Data is the answer

All this data can be collected but the real work is in analyzing it. There are three ways that data can be analyzed:

  1. Predictive analytics where they can use the data to predict patterns of the weather
  2. Description analytics for policy and planning
  3. Prescriptive analytics where the data is used to explain the cause and effects of things

One problem noted was that we have not included citizens to help with collection of data. This is what we call Citizen Science. It’s basically getting the community to collect data and send it to research institutions or firms that will analyze it, manipulate and use it for community development.

The challenge of Citizen Science is lack of uniformity and harmonious structure so that the data can be standardized globally. That is why centres like USIU will come in handy to ensure that there is such a structure in Kenya.

It was also noted that many researchers publish their finding and move on to the next research. It was recommended academic staff and researchers need to go out to the community to find out what problems they need to solve than just working out of their faculties.

Governments also need to commit on the development of HPC. As at now, only South Africa is supporting HPC in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Government of Kenya however, promised to work with USIU, who as at now have a centre for HPC that is open to students and others interested in HPC projects.

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