IBM Takes Watson to Africa for Project Lucy

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-02-06 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Michel Bezy, associate director for Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, said, “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.”

The new pan-African CEDD will help here by leveraging the latest Watson cognitive technologies to provide its research partners with access to high-frequency 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 expertise in cognitive computing across its 12 global laboratories and new Watson business unit.

Two of the first focus areas of the new center are health care and education.

Regarding health care, IBM estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa is home to approximately 25 percent of the world’s disease burden; yet the most common form of health care outside of cities is delivered by community health workers. CEDD will collect encyclopedic knowledge about traditional and non-traditional diseases in Africa. With access to Watson’s cognitive intelligence, doctors, nurses and field workers will get help in diagnosing illnesses and identifying the best treatment for each patient, IBM said.

For example, according to IBM, women in sub-Saharan Africa account for 22 percent of all cases of cervical cancer worldwide mainly due to a lack of services and knowledge. Watson could provide new insights into the evolution of cervical cancer in Africa and suggest new approaches for its prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

On the education front, IBM said half of African children will reach their adolescent years unable to read, write or perform basic numeric tasks. The key to improving these statistics is a thorough understanding of student performance, teacher expertise, attendance levels, class sizes, linguistic abilities and learning materials. While previous information systems have only provided a limited view of point problems, using Watson technologies, CEDD aims to create new holistic approaches for analyzing data to identify previously unrecorded correlations.

For example, Watson could identify the link between a contaminated water borehole, an epidemic of cholera and the subsequent low levels of school attendance in the region. Watson could also help to uncover other causes of low school attendance in a particular region such as a lack of sanitary supplies and cultural traditions placing childcare responsibility on older siblings.

This week IBM is also announcing other investments into the African innovation ecosystem with the opening of new IBM Innovation Centers in Lagos, Nigeria; Casablanca, Morocco; and Johannesburg, South Africa. These new centers aim to spur local growth and fuel an ecosystem of development and entrepreneurship around big data analytics and cloud computing in the region. In recognition of its role in driving data-driven growth and opportunity, this week Frost & Sullivan named IBM an Innovation Leader in Big Data and Analytics in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This focus on Africa is not a new one for IBM. IBM has been making long term, strategic investments in the future and economic expansion of this rapidly expanding region. IBM has operated in Africa since the 1930s, and today has a direct presence in more than 20 African countries and hundreds of clients such as: Santam, RAWBANK in the DRC, Fidelity Bank and Surfline Communications in Ghana, Bharti Airtel across 17 African countries, and Morocco's Ministry of Economy and Finance.  Over the next few years IBM plans to continue strengthening this network with new facilities, offerings and partnerships.

IBM recently organized an initiative asking people from across Africa to submit images which best illustrate Africa’s grand challenges and opportunities and help illustrate the mission of IBM’s new Africa Research Lab. "The World is Our Lab – Africa" project has generated more than 1,200 images from across 25 African countries helping to tell the other side of the continent’s story. To visit the project Website, go to: http://www.theworldisourlabafrica.com/



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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