ARMONK, New York — IBM has recently made new headway into Africa, capitalizing on the enormous potential for unprecedented growth and innovation on the continent possesses. The market for new global and cloud-based technology is rapidly expanding as people have created demand for solutions to the lack of traditional technological infrastructure.
Lately, in 2014, IBM has launched two new IBM Innovation Centers in Lagos, Nigeria and Casablanca, Morocco. The centers will enrich their respective regions, spurring local tech solutions to problems through advanced analytics, boost business administration and empower the locals by broadening their skill sets. The company already has a large footprint across the continent and will continue to catch the eye of entrepreneurs, researchers and techies the world over.
Speaking to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty explained exactly what the tech giant sees in an African future. A new 10-year business plan will, according to Ventures Africa, “address cognitive computing in Africa.” The existing infrastructure there is nearly all mobile and the cellphone market keeps growing. IBM expects to meet increased demand for more advanced mobile devices, contending with Nokia, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung to produce an affordable and unique product. Business Insider reports that IBM “has locations in 20 of the 54 countries in Africa, and last year opened the first of its 12 major research labs in the world in Nairobi, the capital and largest city of Kenya.”
Rometty went on to say that the plan is called “Project Lucy & Africa in the New Era of Computing,” and is a close relative to IBM’s Watson project. Dr. Dorothy Godron, the Director-General of Ghana-India Kofi Annan Center for Excellence in ICT, added that the massive continental expansion demands the proper questions be asked to obtain relevant and meaningful data.
The Lucy project will be key in organizing answers to those questions. Ventures Africa also noted the sentiment from Dr. Uyi Stewart, Chief Scientist at IBM Research Africa. He posited that the massive time, energy and capital investments in the cloud will produce tangible solutions to “hunger, disease, education, and transportation.” In essence, the construction and success of a cloud-based infrastructure will make way for a more traditional one that will serve citizens in time.
Before continuing further, a short explanation of cloud computing is in order. PC Mag says that the term cloud is “a metaphor for the Internet,” eliminating the need for huge physical server bases. It does not involve a traditional hard drive, what is technically termed as local storage and computing. Some in the tech world staunchly stand by the traditional means even today.
The business cloud is very different from what regular consumers interact with, and nearly 100% of North American firms are already on it or are looking to join; the market is worth $100 billion annually. People can log on to a Google account, let’s say, and manage their day. Firms control the individual data of millions of those accounts. While the potential effects are very positive and can enact real change in the African setting, the notion of corporate cloud control is upsetting to some.
To further ensure a solid foundation for the success for Lucy IBM will break ground on a pan-African Centre of Excellence for Data-Driven Development (CEDD) and partner with universities, development organizations and entrepreneurs. A report from HumanIPO contends that the power of IBM’s Watson, along with hearty collaboration, will allow national economies in Africa to boom at enormous rates.
IBM loves Africa because it represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a continental infrastructure out of bits of data, bypassing physical limitations that would otherwise hamper progress. The market for mobile devices is not getting weaker, and the capabilities of phones and tablets to better connect to a cloud seemingly make executing the Lucy plan as easy as logging into an email account.
Potential drawbacks of the plan concerning issues like privacy aside, IBM’s work over the coming decade will without question elevate the African continent on the world stage, centering it squarely in the sites of world powers and companies wanting to expand. The cloud seemingly holds a better quality of life for all Africans and a continent poised to lead the world in a new era of technology.