6 February 2014

Africa: IBM's Watson to Help Bring Solutions to Africa's Problems

IBM will invest US $100 million in a 10-year initiative dubbed Project Lucy that brings the world's most advanced artificial intelligence supercomputer - Watson - to Africa before other developed regions of the world namely Asia and Europe in a move the company says will fuel development and spur business opportunity.

Watson is self-taught in what is referred to as "machine learning" and programmed to understand and analyze English thereby coming up with decisions of its own by going through its huge amounts of big data that it has received from over 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, 2 million pages of text, 26000 clinical cases and tens of hours of training as per June last year.

The technology IBM says will be deployed from its new Africa Research laboratory which provides researchers with resources to allow the development of solutions in healthcare, education, water and sanitation, human mobility and agriculture.

In health, Watson has been tested in the fields of cancer where its opinion has been sought in lung cancer giving discrete answers to questions that have been challenging doctors for years. "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. 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 in Africa. Watson will therefore be instrumental in solving the continents development challenges such as food price patterns, to estimating GDP and poverty numbers, to anticipating disease by understanding and turning data into knowledge and actionable insight.

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