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Botswana Hosts the 7th Square Kilometre Array Working Group ...
13/02/12

Botswana Hosts the 7th Square Kilometre Array Working Group Meeting

Government of Botswana through the Department of Research, Science and Technology hosted the 7th Square Kilometre Array (SKA) working group meeting on 31st January 2012 and 1st February 2012 at Gaborone International Convention Centre. The main aim of the meeting was to update partner countries on the SKA bid process and agree on how to prepare for and influence the decision and announcement of the bid, which is envisaged to happen in February and June 2012 respectively. The purpose also served as a networking platform for SKA partners and other stakeholders.

Participants were drawn from all SKA partner countries supporting South Africa in their bid to host the SKA telescope. These countries are:  Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa. Botswana was represented by DRST, University of Botswana and Botswana Telecommunication Corporation.

The SKA is a mega international science project intending to construct the largest radio telescope in the world by 2024. The SKA will be made of thousands of receptors linked together across an area the size of a continent. The total collecting area will be about one square kilometre, giving 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of the best current-day radio telescopes. The SKA will be located in either Africa or Australia-New Zealand, and the first construction of the SKA will be made in 2016 - 2019.

Participants were given an update on the SKA bid process. It was explained that all countries had submitted their letters of commitment in support of the South African bid. The meeting heard that all site readiness reports had been completed. Some countries however indicated that they had not received their copies of these reports and the SKA office promised to send all partners their respective reports.

Participants were also informed about the technical recommendation that was expected to be made by astronomers by the end of February 2012 regarding the selection of the site for hosting the SKA telescope (between South Africa and Australia). The recommendation would then be forwarded to the voting countries which are: Netherlands, China, Italy and the United Kingdom. These countries will be given at least three months to decide on the selection of the site, based on the recommendations of the technical experts.

In order to influence the decision of the voting countries, several communication strategies were undertaken by the project to date and these include the production of publications (magazines and newsletters); Articles in the national newspapers; Workshops; A lobbying meeting in Banff, Canada; A strategic policy dialogue between RSA and Ghana.

A decision on the location of the SKA site will be made in early 2012.

Read the AU Summit's Decission on the African SKA project here.

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