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.
Africa has been a tremendous growth story
“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,” said Kamal Bhattacharya, Director, IBM Research – Africa. “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.”
Big Data in Africa
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 analyzing massive amounts of Big Data.
Big Data technologies have a major role to play in Africa’s development challenges: from understanding food price patterns, to estimating GDP and poverty numbers, to anticipating disease – the key is turning data into knowledge and actionable insight.
“The next wave of development in Africa requires a new collaborative approach where nonprofit and commercial organizations like RTI and IBM work together to consolidate, analyze and act upon the continent’s data,” said Aaron Williams, Executive Vice President for International Development, RTI International. “Data-driven development has the potential to improve the human condition and provide decision makers with the insight they need to make more targeted interventions.”
Pan-African Center for Data-Driven Development
By establishing the pan-African Center for Data-Driven Development, IBM will leverage the latest Watson cognitive technologies to provide its research partners with access to high-frequency and better organized data. This will enable scientists and analysts to more accurately calculate social and economic conditions and identify previously unseen correlations across multiple domains. Through the Project Lucy initiative, partners will be able to tap into IBM’s unparalleled expertise in cognitive computing across its 12 global laboratories and new Watson business unit and gain access to the resources, tools and knowledge-based services necessary for developing cognitive computing innovations.
“Africa is facing a double challenge: the lack of accessible data to support its economic development, and the lack of advanced skills in data analysis. IBM’s work to share Watson with Africa will help to address both challenges,” said Michel Bézy, Associate Director, Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda. “We are really excited by this opportunity for our students and faculty to partner with IBM to solve critical regional problems with the most advanced cognitive technology available.”