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IBM starts a $100 million Watson project in Africa

Posting in Technology
 
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IBM announced today that it is leveraging the abilities of its Jeopardy!-winning supercomputer Watson in a new 10-year, $100 million initiative to develop "solutions to Africa’s grand challenges."

The initiative is being called "Project Lucy" -- named after one of the earliest known human ancestors, discovered 40 years ago in Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley -- and aims to use Watson's advanced cognitive computing technology to find solutions to everything from water scarcity and low agricultural yield to population growth and disease.

"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," said Kamal Bhattacharya, director of IBM Research – Africa, in a press release.

The plan is to build "an ecosystem around Watson." To do this IBM says it will start the pan-African Center of Excellence for Data-Driven Development that will partner with universities, development agencies, start-ups and provide them with access to IBM's big data technologies

"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 Rahamon Bello, Vice Chancellor at 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."

Last month, IBM invested $1 billion in a new business unit revolving around Watson.

In 2012, IBM opened its first research center in Africa, in Nairobi. Since then it has a handful of "innovation centers" on the continent, including, most recently, one in Nigeria.

Photo: Flickr/jntolva

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— By on February 6, 2014, 3:25 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure