Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘africa

Research In Nairobi

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Over the past several years, you’ve probably noticed that IBM has become much more active on the African continent.

IBM’s newest research lab will be the first on the African continent, in Nairobi, where scientists will conduct basic and applied research to tackle some of East Africa’s toughest challenges, including smarter water systems and transportation congestion.

IBM’s continued investment in this emerging and important continent were expanded upon yesterday when IBM announced that Africa would be the next frontier for innovation in IBM Research.

IBM Research – Africa will have its first location, in Nairobi, Kenya, in collaboration between the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) through the Kenya ICT board.

This new venture will conduct basic and applied research focused on solving problems relevant to African and contribute to the building of a science and technology base for the continent.

Key areas of research will include the following:

  • 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.

“In today’s world, innovation is the main lever for a competitive national economy, is a source of employment, and has the potential to improve lives,” said Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology. “The IBM research lab, will not only rubber stamp Kenya as Africa’s leader in ICT, but will help the country to transform into a knowledge based economy.”

Operations at IBM Research – Africa will commence immediately. Expansion into other parts of Africa may be considered in a second phase.

IBM Investment in Africa 

IBM is making a significant investment in Africa, ramping up its profile on the continent as part of its focus on emerging markets. The expansion program is part of a major business plan to increase IBM’s presence in growth markets and support global strategy. The company is present in more than 20 African countries and recognizes the huge potential of research and smarter systems in transforming business, government and society across the continent.

Alongside its day-to-day business of providing advanced technologies and services to clients in Africa, IBM has deployed an array of programs aimed at building economic capacity such as IBM’s employee volunteer program, Corporate Service Corps, which is modelled on the U.S. Peace Corps. For example, IBM is working with the Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) to review the country’s changing economic landscape and develop a plan to deliver financial services to rural areas.

IBM Research – Africa will join existing labs in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

IBM Research laboratories are credited with the creation of many of the foundations of information technology, including the invention of the relational database, disk storage, DRAM memory and much more. IBM Research has been recognized with five Nobel Prize Laureates, and many leading scientific and technical medals and awards.

Recently IBM Research created a question-answering supercomputing system called Watson that defeated the champions of a major televised quiz show, showing its ability to match humans in answering a wide range of free text questions.

Out Of Africa: IBM And National Geographic Map The Human Genography

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My father’s name is James Watson.  But alas, he’s no relation to the co-discoverer of DNA.

Click to expand. Using new analytical capabilities, IBM and the Genographic Project have found new evidence to support a southern route of human migration from Africa before any movement heading north, suggesting a special role for south Asia in the "out of Africa" expansion of modern humans.

Just as I’m no relation to the founder of IBM, T.J. Watson.  You’d be surprised how many people ask if I am related to the IBM Watsons.  I politely explain that if I were, I’d probably be on a yacht in the Caribbean somewhere.  And I still aspire to discover a long lost genetic connection.

But who I AM related to is part of the study that will be related today at the National Geographic Society in partnership with IBM’s Genographic Project.

Flash back a few million years.

Evolutionary history has demonstrated human populations likely originated in Africa.  The Genographic Project, which is the most extensive survey of human population genetic data to date, suggests where they went next.

No, not to McDonalds.  That came much later.

Rather, a study by the project finds that modern humans migrated out of Africa via a southern route through Arabia, rather than a northern route by way of Egypt.

It’s those findings that will be highlighted today at the National Geographic Society conference.

Mapping The Human Geno-ography

National Geographic and IBM’s Genographic Project scientific consortium have developed a new analytical method that traces the relationship between genetic sequences from patterns of recombination — the process by which molecules of DNA are broken up and recombine to form new pairs.

Ninety-nine percent of the human genome goes through this shuffling process as DNA is being transmitted from one generation to the next. These genomic regions have been largely unexplored to understand the history of human migration.

By looking at similarities in patterns of DNA recombination that have been passed on and in disparate populations, genographic scientists confirm that African populations are the most diverse on Earth, and that the diversity of lineages outside of Africa is a subset of that found on the continent.

The divergence of a common genetic history between populations showed that Eurasian groups were more similar to populations from southern India, than they were to those in Africa.

This supports a southern route of migration from Africa via the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in Arabia before any movement heading north, and suggests a special role for south Asia in the “out of Africa” expansion of modern humans.

The new analytical method looks at recombinations of DNA chromosomes over time, which is one determinant of how new gene sequences are created in subsequent generations.

Imagine a recombining chromosome as a deck of cards. When a pair of chromosomes is shuffled together, it creates combinations of DNA. This recombination process occurs through the generations.

Recombination contributes to genome diversity in 99% of the human genome. However, many believed it was impossible to map the recombinational history of DNA due to the complex, overlapping patterns created in every generation.

Now, by applying detailed computational methods and powerful algorithms, scientists can provide new evidence on the size and history of ancient populations.

Ajay Royyuru, senior manager at IBM’s Computational Biology Center, had this to say about the effort: “Over the past six years, we’ve had the opportunity to gather and analyze genetic data around the world at a scale and level of detail that has never been done before.

“When we started, our goal was to bring science expeditions into the modern era to further a deeper understanding of human roots and diversity. With evidence that the genetic diversity in southern India is closer to Africa than that of Europe, this suggests that other fields of research such as archaeology and anthropology should look for additional evidence on the migration route of early humans to further explore this theory.”

Filling In The Genographic Gaps

The Genographic Project continues to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of the history of humankind and unlock information from our genetic roots that not only impacts our personal stories, but can reveal new dimensions of civilizations, cultures and societies over the past tens of thousands of years.

“The application of new analytical methods, such as this study of recombinational diversity, highlights the strength of the Genographic Project’s approach.  Having assembled a tremendous resource in the form of our global sample collection and standardized database, we can begin to apply new methods of genetic analysis to provide greater insights into the migratory history of our species,” said Genographic Project Director Spencer Wells.

The recombination study highlights the initial six-year effort by the Genographic Project to create the most comprehensive survey of human genetic variation using DNA contributed by indigenous peoples and members of the general public, in order to map how the Earth was populated.

Nearly 500,000 individuals have participated in the Project with field research conducted by 11 regional centers to advance the science and understanding of migratory genealogy. This database is one of the largest collections of human population genetic information ever assembled and serves as an unprecedented resource for geneticists, historians and anthropologists.

At the core of the project is a global consortium of 11 regional scientific teams following an ethical and scientific framework and who are responsible for sample collection and analysis in their respective regions.

The Project is open to members of the public to participate through purchasing a public participation kit from the Genographic Web site (www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic), where they can also choose to donate their genetic results to the expanding database. Sales of the kits help fund research and support a Legacy Fund for indigenous and traditional peoples’ community-led language revitalization and cultural projects.

Out Of Africa, Or In?

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There’s been a lot of very exciting news from IBM out of Africa of late, where IBM is actively expanding its operations as part of its continued geographic expansion to increase its presence in key growth markets.

Just earlier today, IBM announced details of a $3M deal with the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia to support the bank in a major modernization and business expansion program.

With its new IT infrastructure, the bank plans to increase its number of accounts by 25 percent per year, launch 200 new ATMs per year, and open 500 new branches over the next five years.

That’s just one recent example.

IBM also opened subsidiary offices in Tanzania and Senegal this year, and IBM now has a direct presence in over 20 African countries (with more offices planned).

IBM also recently announced a deal with Bharti airtel to create an integrated telecommunications infrastructure to enable mobile phone communications throughout 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

If you visit here, you can learn more about IBM’s numerous African-related announcements over the past two years. There, you can also hear directly from some African citizens and IBMers about IBM’s Corporate Service Corps initiatives in Africa.

Netbooks In Africa

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How about a netbook for $190 U.S.?

Today, Canonical and IBM announced a partnership with Simmtronics to offer the Simmtronics netbook, the Simmbook, to emerging markets at just that price.

Starting in South Africa, the Simmbook is preloaded with IBM Client for Smart Work, which includes IBM Lotus Symphony (productivity suite), access to IBM LotusLive cloud collaboration services, and the choice to add other IBM Lotus collaboration software like Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime.

This move helps bridge the gap between low price and high performance, providing a desirable form factor (the netbook) with an affordable software and OS footprint, one that provides a better computing option for those in small-medium businesses, non-profits, and even academia which might not otherwise be able to afford these types of collaboration resources.

“As Africa makes economic strides during a time when new technologies like cloud computing are emerging, the Simmbook netbook with LotusLive, Lotus Symphony, Lotus Notes and Ubuntu Linux provides businesses with a complete solution at an affordable price,” said Clifford Foster, IBM sub-Saharan CTO.

“CIO’s, IT directors and IT architects from all type of organizations in South Africa — even those that typically cannot afford new, expensive personal computers — can now legitimately consider netbooks instead of PCs for business use.”

Designed specifically for mobile computing, the Simmbook provides the power of a full-sized laptop in a compact body. IBM Client for Smart Work is IBM and Canonical’s complete desktop package that’s open, easy to use, and offers a security-rich alternative to costly, proprietary PC software, such as Microsoft Windows.  It  can help lower costs by up to 50 percent of a typical Microsoft PC.

Simmtronics is working closely with IBM to provide low cost computing in emerging markets around the world.   In addition to African countries, the low-cost Simmbook will also be available in India, Thailand and Vietnam.

The new Simmbook preloaded with IBM Client for Smart Work can be purchased online directly from Simmtronics using this order form http://www.simmtronics.com/order_form.php.  Simmtronics and IBM plan to continue to work with clients to offer the Simmbook at a competitive price to other countries around the world.

Written by turbotodd

March 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm

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