14 July 2015
There is a fear that new scientific exploration into space might lead to “unhealthy forms of new competition”, the South African Brics Think Tank (SABTT) said yesterday.
With an increasing interest in space research, it was important to “start working co- operatively rather than competitively”, said Professor Ari Sitas, the newly appointed head of SABTT’s council.
“There is a fear that space is becoming a new area of intellectual property and trademark and [with countries] moving out there for resources, this might lead to unhealthy forms of new competition.
“All [Brics countries] are involved in space research and all are using satellite technology. South Africa is one of the primary stargazers with the MeerKAT and the SKA projects,” he said.
The South African MeerKAT radio telescope is currently being built in Northern Cape. It will be a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project in which South Africa, along with Australia, will host the world’s largest radio telescope.
The SABTT released a statement yesterday on some of the key outcomes of the seventh Brics summit held in Ufa, Russia, on 8 and 9 July.
In the original declaration following the summit, the heads of state said they recognised the benefit that the Brics countries could obtain from “opportunities for outer space co-operation in order to promote the application of relevant technologies for peaceful purposes”.
“Outer space shall be free for peaceful exploration and use by all States on a basis of equality in accordance with international law,” it read.
Furthermore, read the declaration: “The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development.”
The summit also established a working group of experts to tackle security issues arising out of the use of information and communication technology networks.
Sitas said the Brics countries had raised three main concerns around this. The first was the use of this technology by criminal syndicates.
“Everyone, through Interpol and other means, [is] trying to get something going [in terms of transnational] organised crime.”
The second issue was that the use of ICT technology for terrorism was “becoming very sensitive”.
“There is a consensus that acts of terror are not on,” said Sitas. The summit had also affirmed the commitment of its members to create protocols regarding finances moving around the countries through ICT networks.
In the original declaration, the heads of state also reiterated “condemnation of mass electronic surveillance and data collection of individuals all over the world, as well as violation of the sovereignty of States and of human rights, in particular, the right to privacy”.
At the next Brics summit, to be held in 2016 in India, the countries’ New Development Bank is expected to be launched.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, President Jacob Zuma said the summit had helped “deepen co-operation between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa”.
“There is no doubt in our minds that almost seven years after we joined Brics, the world’s geopolitics is changing and the Brics bloc of countries is having a significant impact, particularly on the developing economies,” he said.