You may or may not have heard of High Performance Computing. Simply put, this are very powerful computers with powerful processors which perform at or near the currently highest operational level for normal computers.  Where in use, these have been able to tackle some of life’s challenges and the mysteries in life sciences that are captured in data. High performance computing (HPC) is the use of Super Computers and parallel processing techniques for solving complex computational problems. HPC was in the past limited to academia within government institutions and the larger Science community.

As HPC continues to become more mainstream in developed countries, many industries are taking advantage of this technology and using it to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. HPC is today used in the businesses and financial institutions where companies are able to be more efficient by processing and analysing large amounts of raw data without having to use guess work for business decisions. This gives companies and Governments who use it competitive advantage and protects them against cyber threats. HPC is also used in genome sequencing and finding new medical breakthroughs in life sciences. The geological and mining industry is able to use HPC to determine seismic surveys, climate research and even where to drill oil for example.

With the recently held United Nations Environmental Assemble, the use of HPC to solve environmental challenges affecting the entire globe was a major a topic of discussion. We do understand that everyone is entitled to a clean and healthy environment and it’s not only for the elite few. The use of HPC in environment can be able to compile large resource data which can be used to determine the source of a challenge hence reducing the larger impact of environmental related health problems.

High Performance Computing (HPC) can be able to collect data related to air pollution cases that lead to cases such as Asthma and Bronchitis among other diseases. This could be activated in a case where pollution detectors can have the ability to send a feedback to the HPC. The feedback messages when analysed by the HPC will be able to detect high prevalent areas that experience air pollution and thereby measures can be taken to combat air pollution. Pollution is an environmental challenge that affects a majority of people living in urban areas or near mining locations. According to an International Energy Agency report, air pollution is linked to the premature deaths of up to 6.5 million people globally every year. Clean air which is a basic human right, is vital for good health which in turn ensures economic feasibility for a country since its citizens are able to live and work in clean and safe standards.

Not only will HPC work in crunching data on air pollution, other pollution circumstances such as chemical, water and food pollution could also be analyzed. This could be in a situation where companies could continuously rely their chemical tests and water effluent (waste water from factory plants released to water bodies) tests on a daily basis. Since this is a large amount of data, HPC will be able to analyse and detect instances where water pollution has occurred. This minimizes the chances of companies dumping toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury, illegally into water bodies which not only affects upstream users, but also downstream users and marine life.

Food security

With a third of food produced worldwide going to waste, food security, especially in developing countries is a challenge. Consumers in developed countries waste 222 million tonnes as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa which is 230 million tonnes. This means, developing countries are spending so much energy to produce food which in turn ends up in dump sites. HPC can be used to detect where and how these losses occur and thus aid in reducing them. It can also be used to determine the amount of pesticides being used in agriculture. We have seen that bees and other insects that help in agriculture are slowly diminishing. Agricultural workers are also experiencing unintentional pesticide poisoning. This can be attributed to the high amount of pesticides used and this data needs to be understood and acted upon.

The introduction of HPC in the environment sector will aid in reducing global pollutions as is the mandate of the recently concluded UNEA 3. The module will be able to open more opportunities to tackle waste production and in turn protect humanity from pollution and ensure both marine and terrestrial life thrives.

Africa is not doing well at adoption of HPC but we’re getting somewhere. Here in Kenya, USIU Africa is championing the development of HPC in Kenya. The university is doing this in partnership with Carnegie Africa and Intel.

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