It is a great day in the tiny South African town of Carnarvon – the little town witnessed the unveiling of the completed big SKA (Square Kilometer Array) telescope, called MEERKAT.
There may be voices who would legitimately question why we are going to such huge lengths on “earth” to explore the “heavens” at an expense that could be used for earthly good.
Some are also suggesting that while this telescope may help us to “see fuller, reach deeper and understand better” in relation to the past (the very remote, for that matter), it renders a worrying mismatch with the resources that should be allocated to giving our children a better future.
Then there is the matter of exclusive pet projects like understanding star-formations and black-hole activity. “Vaderland, Liewe Jesus, sien die sondaars aan,” like my grandmother used to say in sighing resign. It is difficult enough to get sane structure in our many communities, let alone bother about star-formations. With all our power failures in this country, we are already in a black-hole, so nothing new there.
In all the happiness of this day and the accomplishments, I noticed a very fascinating detail related to the transmission capacity possible in rural South Africa that almost slipped through – unnoticed amidst all the celebrations.
Why is the communication capacity between the Meerkat and the bunker not used for the communications needs in rural South Africa? I am told that the speeds of communication here references terabytes/second! Is it possible that broadband of very high speeds are actually available in rural South Africa?
I know that high speed broadband is not possible via Telkom and I know that the cellphone masts are a complete no-go, especially now that the Meerkat is in town. That 20m big ear cannot tolerate the interference of these masts. But is there another solution? Can the communications technology used by Meerkat be used in the new e-learning programs for Carnarvon and surrounding towns?