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Africa urged to embrace cognitive computing to address local challenges

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BY EMEKA AGINAM, in Nairo, Kenya
The ability of African continent to sustain economic growth will depend largely on how quickly it can shift attention from traditional commodity markets to modern economic structures that focus on congnitive technology driven development to address local challenges.

These among others things were the views of international technology experts, development agencies, and private sector groups who gathered yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya at the IBM Cognitive Colloquium: Africa in the Era of Computing.

At the pannel discuusion, the penalists discussed on how best the continent’s challenges can be met and solved using cognitive computing especially in the area of health.

Cognitive computing is about drawing inspiration from the human brain while respecting the technological constraints in society to build new computers and services that will help make the world work better. Cognitive computing systems learn and interact naturally with people to extend what either humans or machine could do on their own. They help human experts make better decisions by penetrating the complexity of Big Data

At the high level forum tagged: IBM ‘Africa in the New Era of Cognitive Computing’ Colloquium, the forum also discussed how best Africa can reap the benefits of cognitive computing following the introduction of Watson supercomputer by IBM and become a global front runner in utilisation of new technologies.

Earlier in is keynote address, the IBM Fello, Vice President and CTO, Watson, expplained that the focus of the IBM Research Africa Lab is based on providing

technology solutions to some of the pressing challenges bedeviling the African

continent, such as provision of energy, water, human mobility, agriculture,

healthcare, financial inclusion and public safety.

He said that the facilities in the lab hold a lot of potentials for Africa for digital inclusion in the 21st centuary knowledge society.

For the panelists, African governments need to invest in techlogies that can solve many issues including health, poever, disease, education among others.

Speaking during the panel discussion tittled, Cognitive Syems, Afrca’s Grand Chalenges and New Business Opportunities, the Dierctor General, Ghana-Indian Kofi Annam Center of Excellence in ICT, Dorothy Gordon told the gathering that it was time for Africa to embrace the power of computing to cater for its development efforts, noring that skills were needed to achieve this.

Data ís more than the oil. Data is the most important asset. Pay serious attention to computing ability for digital inclusion.Shif attention to data and aknowledge the ability of technology to solve our problems. We have to pay attetntion on how we are collecting data. We should have partner institutions in West Africa to work with IBM lab. We have to make this work. We cannot leave it for IBM alone. We have to get involved as equal partners in IBM Project Lucy. Nigeria is the center of the market. Nigeria has the brain. But we should create technology and not a consumer of technology,’’she said.

According to her, Africa has a lot of opportunities now to create innovative solutions to solve her challenges such as hunger, disease, among facing the continent.

Also speaking at the panel discussion moderated by Dr. Uyi Stewart, Chief Scientist, IBM Research Africa, the African Correspondent for the Economist and Founder of the AFROTECH, Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne during the panel discussion noted that technology can change things and create jobs in Africa if fully embraced and adopted.

According to him, developed economies have invested a lot in technology innovation which he said have given them the competitive advantage over developinmg nations.

He strongly believe that with IBM lab in Africa, the continent’s local problems like education, disease, hunger, transportantion would be surmounted.

For Wolfgang Fengler, Sector Leader , World Bank in his presentation, ‘Big Data and Africa in the news era of computing’, big data is the next frontier in the development indices, adding that Africa will be left behind in the new econom it fails to embrace cognitice computing and big data.

The World Bank Sector Leader commending the IBM lab with optimism noted that Africa has a lot of potentials in cognitive technology which he said was eseential to helping the world access and gain insight from the huge volumes of information being created today.

One thing is clear. As the world shift attention to cognitive computing, IBM is embracing this new approach, where computers are built to function more like biological systems that respond and react fluidly to what is going on around them

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