IBM continues to extend its reach in Africa, today announcing plans to expand IBM Research-Africa with a new laboratory in Johannesburg.
The IBM Research news comes just days after Big Blue launched a new IBM Middle East and Africa Digital Sales Center in Cairo. IBM’s new Johannesburg research laboratory will open in April 2015 and will focus on advancing big data, cloud and mobile technologies to support South Africa’s national priorities, drive skills development and foster economic growth.
“IBM considers two factors when deciding where to place research labs: access to world-class skills and talent and the ability to work on pressing business and societal challenges that can be best addressed through advanced information technology,” Dr. John E. Kelly III, senior vice president of IBM Solutions Portfolio and Research, said in a statement. “South Africa provides an exciting backdrop as we look to expand our research efforts in the region. Our Africa-based researchers are part of a global community of IBM scientists who are forging the future of our company and ensuring that we remain at the forefront of scientific discovery.”
As part of a 10-year investment program through the Department of Trade and Industry and working closely with the Department of Science and Technology, the new research facility will be based at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).
“South Africa is amongst the most technologically and scientifically advanced countries in the world,” Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of science and technology, said in a statement. “However, it is essential to increase research and development activities in order to foster innovation and support the further diversification of the economy. We welcome IBM Research to South Africa and offer our very best scientific talent to ensure its long-term success.”
IBM’s South Africa researchers will partner with local universities, research institutions, start-ups and government agencies. The company has already struck up agreements with Wits University, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to collaborate on research programs and skills development.
“The development of a successful innovation ecosystem is crucial to the further development of the South African economy and the country’s international competitiveness,” said Professor Adam Habib, vice chancellor and principal at Wits University, in a statement. “IBM Research’s decision to locate in Johannesburg will give a huge boost to a dynamic community of programmers, designers, developers, entrepreneurs and startups.”
The new lab will be located in the Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, an inner-city area that is re-emerging as a vibrant area of Johannesburg. The new South Africa research team will be led by Dr. Solomon Assefa, formerly a research scientist at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
The South Africa lab’s focus areas will include digital urban renewal, the transformation of health care and focusing on big data for science. IBM said the lab’s inner-city location will allow IBM’s new researchers to become part of a ‘living lab’ that will employ advanced digital technologies and big data analytics in urban renewal strategies. IBM’s researchers and partner organizations will develop solutions using computational modeling, Internet of things and cognitive systems to engage with citizens and help revitalize inner-city areas in South Africa and around the world.
IBM Research Expands Into South Africa
IBM’s South Africa-based researchers will explore new approaches using big data analytics and cognitive computing to address health care issues in resource-constrained environments in South Africa and across the African continent. IBM Research is already engaged with the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) to research new treatment approaches to fight tuberculosis. The research, which uses big data technologies in bacterial genetics and drug susceptibility tests, is helping to increase understanding of the genomic mechanisms that cause resistance to antibiotics.
IBM said its new researchers will also contribute to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope project, where scientists from South Africa will work with those from ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy and IBM Research-Zurich to collect and analyze big data from deep space that contains information dating back to the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago.
Meanwhile, the IBM Middle East and Africa Digital Sales Center in Cairo represents a $3 million investment by IBM. It is part of a broader three-year agreement with the Egyptian government in which IBM will create jobs and work with clients to transform their organizations using cloud, big data and analytics, mobile and social technologies.
The new Cairo center is part of a collaboration agreement between IBM and the Egyptian Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA). In addition to new roles at the digital sales center, IBM plans to hire more than 800 people across its network of delivery centers in the country over the next three years. A specialized IT sales force will provide services to IBM clients in Arabic, English, French and Portuguese.
“This announcement with IBM reflects the powerful mix of competitive advantages that Egypt is offering to the world,” said Hussein El Gueretly, CEO of Egypt’s ITIDA, in a statement. “Egypt is well known for its low-cost, skilled talent pool, famous for its accent-free multi-lingual capabilities, as well as its strong technical competencies. We are fortunate to have over 35 universities and 100 institutes that graduate over 450,000 thousand students annually.”
Last year, IBM and ITIDA embarked on a project to provide cloud computing expertise to 100 Egyptian software companies to help drive innovation and new cloud development skills in the country. The goal is to boost Egypt’s efforts to become a center of cloud computing excellence in the region.