News Feed Item

IBM Brings Watson to Africa

$100M "Project Lucy" Initiative Heralds New Era of Data-Driven Development

LAGOS, Nigeria and NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb. 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: 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.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090416/IBMLOGO)

"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."

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. 

Watson technologies will be deployed from IBM's new Africa Research laboratory providing researchers with a powerful set of resources to help develop commercially-viable solutions in key areas such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation, human mobility and agriculture.

To help fuel the cognitive computing market and build an ecosystem around Watson, IBM will also establish a new pan-African Center of Excellence for Data-Driven Development (CEDD) and is recruiting research partners such as universities, development agencies, start-ups and clients in Africa and around the world. By joining the initiative, IBM's partners will be able to tap into cloud-delivered cognitive intelligence that will be invaluable for solving the continent's most pressing challenges and creating new business opportunities.

"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 Prof Rahamon Bello, Vice Chancellor, 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."

Center of Excellence for Data-Driven Development
Decades of development work in Africa have significantly helped to improve the livelihood and raise the standard of living for millions across the continent. However, traditional approaches have often fallen short because of commercial unviability, a domain specific scope and a lack of accurate 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."

By establishing the pan-African Center for Data-Driven Development (CEDD), 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. Through CEDD they will 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."

Two of the first focus areas of the new center are healthcare and education:

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to approximately 25 percent of the world's disease burden; yet the most common form of healthcare 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.

For example, 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. By feeding back valuable clinical data about their field observations, healthcare workers will be able to contribute to improving Watson's inference abilities.

Currently, 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.

Today's announcement is part of a broader effort by IBM to advance and share cognitive computing innovations around the world.  Nearly three years after its triumph on the television quiz show Jeopardy!, IBM has advanced Watson from a game playing innovation into a commercial technology. The company recently established a new Watson business unit dedicated to the development and commercialization of cognitive computing innovations and is investing more than $1 billion to bring cognitive applications and services to market.

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. 

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 over 1200 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/

To view a selection of these images, visit:  http://bit.ly/1hJD9QO

For more information on 'Project Lucy' and to download the official IBM infographic, go to:

To download images of the IBM Research - Africa lab and its staff, go to:

To view a film about Africa's grand challenges and opportunities visit:

About IBM Research - Africa
IBM has had a direct presence in Africa for over 70 years that today spans more than 20 countries, including Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Kenya and Tanzania. IBM Research – Africa - the continent's first commercial technology research facility - was inaugurated in by His Excellency, the President of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta in November, 2013. The lab employs researchers from some of the world's best universities to conduct applied and far-reaching exploratory research into the grand challenges of the African continent by delivering commercially-viable innovations that impact people's lives.

The 2000m2 facility features one of Africa's most powerful, cloud-enabled computing hubs giving researchers the ability to analyze and draw insight from vast amounts of data in the search for solutions to Africa's most pressing challenges.

About Watson
Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, IBM Watson was developed in IBM's Research labs. Using natural language processing and analytics, Watson processes information akin to how people think, representing a major shift in an organization's ability to quickly analyze, understand and respond to Big Data. Now delivered from the cloud from a single Power 750 server running Linux and able to power new consumer and enterprise services and apps, Watson is 24 times faster, smarter (with a 2,400 percent improvement in performance) and 90 percent smaller – IBM has shrunk Watson from the size of a master bedroom to three stacked pizza boxes. Watson's ability to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence is transforming decision making across a variety of industries.

For example, IBM is partnering with a range of healthcare organizations to apply Watson in order to transform how medicine is practiced, paid for and taught.  The company is also working with a variety of organizations to transform how enterprises conduct research, share data-driven insights, and engage their customers via Watson-powered solutions.

To share cognitive computing with a broader group of innovators, IBM has made Watson available as a development platform in the cloud, enabling software application providers to build a new generation of apps infused with cognitive computing intelligence.

IBM CEO Ginny Rometty, Addresses Business and Government Leaders at the Smarter Planet Leadership Exchange Forum in Lagos, Nigeria. Announces Details of 'Project Lucy' - a 10-Year, $100M initiative to bring Watson cognitive technologies to Africa.

Multimedia Assets associated with this release:
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsOj-lLKm2E
Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140206/NY60080

Jonathan Batty
IBM Research
[email protected]

Kui Kinyanjui
IBM Africa
[email protected]
+254 721 676 543

Michael Loughran
[email protected]
+1 914 945 1613


More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
Join Impiger for their featured webinar: ‘Cloud Computing: A Roadmap to Modern Software Delivery’ on November 10, 2016, at 12:00 pm CST. Very few companies have not experienced some impact to their IT delivery due to the evolution of cloud computing. This webinar is not about deciding whether you should entertain moving some or all of your IT to the cloud, but rather, a detailed look under the hood to help IT professionals understand how cloud adoption has evolved and what trends will impact th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Transparent Cloud Computing (T-Cloud) Consortium will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Transparent Cloud Computing Consortium (T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data proces...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their online busine...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
Qosmos, the market leader for IP traffic classification and network intelligence technology, has announced that it will launch the Launch L7 Viewer at CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley, being held November 1 – 3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The L7 Viewer is a traffic analysis tool that provides complete visibility of all network traffic that crosses a virtualized infrastructure, up to Layer 7. It facilitates and accelerates common IT tasks such as VM migra...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...
November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Penta Security is a leading vendor for data security solutions, including its encryption solution, D’Amo. By using FPE technology, D’Amo allows for the implementation of encryption technology to sensitive data fields without modification to schema in the database environment. With businesses having their data become increasingly more complicated in their mission-critical applications (such as ERP, CRM, HRM), continued ...
In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Claude Remillard, Principal Program Manager in Developer Division at Microsoft, will contrast how his team used config as code and immutable patterns for continuous delivery of microservices and apps to the cloud. He will show the immutable patterns helps developers do away with most of the complexity of config as code-enabling scenarios such as rollback, zero downtime upgrades with far greater simplicity. He will also have live demos of building immutable pipe...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudbric, a leading website security provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudbric is an elite full service website protection solution specifically designed for IT novices, entrepreneurs, and small and medium businesses. First launched in 2015, Cloudbric is based on the enterprise level Web Application Firewall by Penta Security Sys...
WebRTC sits at the intersection between VoIP and the Web. As such, it poses some interesting challenges for those developing services on top of it, but also for those who need to test and monitor these services. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC, reviewed the various challenges posed by WebRTC when it comes to testing and monitoring and on ways to overcome them.
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Rapid innovation, changing business landscapes, and new IT demands force businesses to make changes quickly. In the eyes of many, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery. In this presentation, you'll learn about the: The transformation of IT to a DevOps, microservices, and container-based architecture What are containers and how DevOps practices can operate in a container-based environment A demonstration of how Docke...