AI to im­prove Africa

The world’s most ad­vanced ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is be­ing brought to Africa where it will fo­cus on ev­ery­day chal­lenges in ed­u­ca­tion, health­care and other ar­eas…

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - To view or sub­mit im­ages visit http://www.the­world­is­ Si­mon Din­gle

What could Africa learn from the world’s most so­phis­ti­cated cog­ni­tive com­puter? This is the ques­tion be­hind an ini­tia­tive that will see IBM’s award-win­ning su­per­com­puter Wat­son be­ing ap­plied to chal­lenges on our con­ti­nent.

Wat­son is far from just any com­puter. In the most sig­nif­i­cant breakthrough for ar­tif icial in­tel­li­gence to date, Wat­son fa­mously de­feated two of the world’s hu­man Jeop­ardy champions at the fa­mous Amer­i­can quiz com­pe­ti­tion in which con­tes­tants an­swer trivia chal­lenges in the form of ques­tions. To win the com­pe­ti­tion, Wat­son had to un­der­stand so­phis­ti­cated nat­u­ral lan­guage ques­tions and con­sult its vast li­brary of hu­man knowl­edge, learned from on­line sources such as Wikipedia, in nanosec­onds.

Now ‘Project Lucy’ will see Wat­son us­ing its mar­vel­lous on­line brain to tackle de­vel­op­ing world prob­lems.

Di­rec­tor of IBM Re­search in Africa, Ka­mal Bhat­tacharya said that the con­ti­nent holds very in­ter­est­ing ques­tions for so­phis­ti­cated an­a­lyt­ics sys­tems.

“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,” said Bhat­tacharya.

“With t he abilit y to learn f rom 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.”

A new re­search lab­o­ra­tory is be­ing de­vel­oped for t he i ni­tia­tive where re­searchers will aim at com­mer­cially-vi­able so­lu­tions in ar­eas such as health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, hu­man mo­bil­ity and agri­cul­ture. The work will in­te­grate with re­search at learn­ing fa­cil­i­ties in African coun­tries too.

IBM has cre­ated a web­site where any­one can up­load im­ages that best il­lus­trate the ev­ery­day chal­lenges fac­ing Africa.

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