IBMIBM already has 12 research labs globally. 4 of these labs have been opened over the past two years in Brazil, Australia, and Ireland and now in Kenya. IBM Research Labs has a budget of 6.5 billion dollars. The opening of its outpost in Kenya was announced today at a press conference. Its partnership with Kenya ICT board will therefore enhance the efforts of the Kenyan government to meet the goals it has set out in the Vision 2030. Significant investments have been made to the partnership by both parties with PS, Dr. Bitange Ndemo citing a yearly contribution of 2 million dollars from the Kenyan government. The IBM Research Labs will be hosted at the Catholic University with work expected to kick off before September 1st of this year.

Although, the lab is being set up at Catholic University, it is expected to serve all the Kenyan universities. The team of researchers who will be working at the lab will be recruited from among the resident scientists in the country. Regional scientists and expatriates will also be part of this team as the IBM Research lab seeks to conduct applied research to find relevant solutions to problems experienced in Africa. The research team will pull experts from the government, academic institutions and industrial organizations.

According to Dr. Morris, Vice President, Services Research, IBM, Kenya has the ability to execute and use innovation. This is made possible by the existence of Vision 2030, which placed the country at the top of the IBM search for a suitable location for their research labs. Since Vision 2030 is a long term strategy with short term executable plans, it lays a good foundation for the work that IBM Research Labs intend to do in Africa. A second phase to other parts of Africa may be considered.

IBM Research Africa’s key areas of research will include:

Next Generation Public Sector: Governments have a mission critical role to play in the growth and sustainable developments in Africa. With the right kind of ICT, including big data solutions, advanced analytics, and cloud technologies, government organizations can draw insights and benefit from the vast amounts of data held by any number of government agencies. This can help advance e-government capabilities such as helping to reduce the cost of social services, improving efficiency and productivity, deterring fraud and abuse, improving citizen access to services, and enabling digital interaction between citizens and the public sector.

Smarter Cities: with initial focus on water and transportation: Rates of urbanization in Africa are the highest in the world.  The single biggest challenge facing African cities is improving access to and quality of city services such as water and transportation. IBM, in collaboration with government, industry and academia, plans to develop Intelligent Operation Centers for African cities – integrated command centers – that can encompass social and mobile computing, geo-spatial and visual analytics, and information models to enable smarter ways of managing city services. The initial focus will be on smarter water systems and traffic management solutions for the region.

Human Capacity Development: A skills shortage is hindering the leadership and innovation of new industry in Africa. The IBM Research – Africa lab, while carrying out research, will help to elevate the level of ICT and related scientific skills in Kenya by working in collaboration with select universities, government agencies and companies. Boosting the innovation culture in Kenya and engaging local entrepreneurs and innovators in developing solutions that matter to the people of Kenya and the region may also assist in accelerating economic development.