August 13, 2012

IBM Opening Up New Research Lab In Kenya

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

IBM opened up a research lab in Kenya in the hopes of saving the country billions through the development of technology.

The company believes it will be able to use the lab to save Kenya some money as it improves the delivery of public services.

IBM vice president Robert Morris said the company would be investing a "significant" amount in the lab.

Kenya will be contributing $2 million annually for the next five years, according to information and communication permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo.

East African countries like Kenya and Rwanda have vibrant ICT sectors, which have been amplified by successful mobile phone money transfer services, bill payment services, and mobile banking.

Ndemo said that automating various government services would help to save billions of dollars.

"There are several registries, which if we completely automated, our estimate is that we can plough back to the Exchequer up to $10 billion by simply creating efficiency through higher productivity," Ndemo told Reuters.

IBM said the biggest challenges facing African cities was improving services like water and transportation.

The company already provides network support for telecoms firms and commercial banks in Africa. It plans to build the lab up to fifty researchers within five years.

The research center will be a "resident scientist program" that will bring in researchers from Nairobi and other places in Africa to collaborate with IBM scientists.

The candidates can come from universities, government or industry to work at the lab for typically one-year stints.

Seventy-percent of adults in Nairobi have cell phones, so urban travel patterns can be seen by tracking cell phone locations and movements. A group of researchers recently used a couple of webcams to collect data on traffic jams on the routes to and from the Nairobi airport, according to a New York Times report.

In an experiment, the team used that data to develop algorithms that suggested paths to reroute traffic to minimize delays, the report said.

“Africa is a complex place,” John E. Kelly, I.B.M.´s senior vice president for research, told the New York Times. “But we feel it is on the cusp, at an inflection point. It´s going to take off.”