IBM has launched a 10-year initiative to bring Watson and other cognitive systems to Africa in a bid to fuel development and spur business opportunities across the world’s fastest growing continent.
Dubbed “Project Lucy” after the earliest known human ancestor, IBM will invest US$100 million in the initiative, giving scientists and partners access to the world’s most advanced cognitive computing technologies.
Kamal Bhattacharya, Director, IBM Research – Africa, said: “In the last decade, Africa has been a tremendous growth story -- yet the continent's challenges, stemming from population growth, water scarcity, disease, low agricultural yield and other factors are impediments to inclusive economic growth,”
“With the ability to learn from emerging patterns and discover new correlations, Watson's cognitive capabilities hold enormous potential in Africa – helping it to achieve in the next two decades what today's developed markets have achieved over two centuries.”
IBM's Watson represents a new era of cognitive computing, in which systems and software are not programmed, but actually improve by learning so they can discover answers to questions and uncover insights by analysing massive amounts of Big Data.
Watson technologies will be deployed from IBM's new Africa Research laboratory providing researchers with a powerful set of resources to help develop commercially-viable solutions in key areas such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation, human mobility and agriculture.
To help fuel the cognitive computing market and build an ecosystem around Watson, IBM will also establish a new pan-African Center of Excellence for Data-Driven Development (CEDD) and is recruiting research partners such as universities, development agencies, start-ups and clients in Africa and around the world.
By joining the initiative, IBM’s partners will be able to tap into cloud-delivered cognitive intelligence that will be invaluable for solving the continent’s most pressing challenges and creating new business opportunities.
“For Africa to join, and eventually leapfrog, other economies, we need comprehensive investments in science and technology that are well integrated with economic planning and aligned to the African landscape,” said Prof Rahamon Bello, Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos.
“I see a great opportunity for innovative research partnerships between companies like IBM and African organizations, bringing together the world’s most advanced technologies with local expertise and knowledge.”