South African astronomy is entering an extraordinary era characterised by huge amounts of data from new and upcoming observational facilities including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), the Karoo Array Telescope (MeerKAT) and the SKA. Similar large data sets from international facilities, operating on the ground and in space, across the electromagnetic spectrum from radio to gamma rays, add to the opportunities and to the challenges. Linking these datasets to theoretical models and simulations adds yet another dimension.
South African can be best positioned to exploit this wealth of data if we develop our storage, access, visualization and analysis tools in a coherent manner that takes cognizance of the rapidly changing scale and complexity of the requirements and the environment. Links between the observational data, theoretical models and simulations will also play key roles in our growing understanding of the universe and must form an integral part of our vision.
South African Astroinformatics Alliance (SA3) has been established with the intent that any new major astronomical facility, observational or theoretical, will become involved at an appropriate stage. The alliance will help link South African astronomers to similar organizations internationally so that we may take full advantage of software and hardware developments made elsewhere.