Headline Aug 19, 2014/

''' AFRICA : 

SOME COUNTRIES, are better off, more stable or simply keener than others to make the most of IT.

FOR AFRICA, this is one very rare opportunity, '' to move, and move first, to the new era of computing.''

It can leapfrog straight to the tech future and frontier, without worrying about adapting old systems to cope with the data it creates.

At the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, which eventually will be the home of advance research, one Kenyan asked Mr Kelly, ''Will you bring Watson to Africa?'' 

Bitange Ndemo, a bigwig in the Ministry of Information and Communications and the man responsible for the cable from the Gulf, says he wants to see a rise in IT's share of Kenyan GDP from about  5%  now  to 35%   ''within a very short period''.

He hopes for a mighty shift of employment away from agriculture. ''But politicians must have the will,'' Mr Nidemo says.

If they are to create new markets and to profit from them, technology companies have to be on the spot. John Kelly's IBM's head of research , says that after the firm set up labs in China in  1995 and in India in 1998:

''We found that we were getting innovation out of these research labs which could only have occurred in those locations.''  The Indian lab, for example, produced the ''spoken web''  for illiterate people with cheap phones.

One of the Nairobi lab's early challenges is traffic. The city has few traffic lights or cameras; hence the awful congestion. Signals from motorists mobile phones can help to track traffic, but planners have few data to work with. IBM's lab will harness other sources:

Such as security cameras that are not aimed at the road but capture images of it anyway. IBM will then crunch data to help planners control traffic and decide where to build more roads.

The Nairobi lab is expected to earn its keep quickly. The Chinese and Indian labs, Mr Kelly says, took ten years to make a significant contribution technically and commercially. Kenya's target is five. He says the lab has made a good start, drawing on work by an older sibling in Tokyo to tackle its traffic problem.

In many sectors, such as health care, education and water, as well as traffic, governments are sure to be important customers for IT companies. But private clients matter too, especially in telecoms and finance. The mobile phone, the first computer many Africans own, is bridge between the two.

To Westerners,  ''mobile banking''  is a new way of doing something old. To many Africans, it is the obvious way of doing something new. 

In Kenya,  M-PESA , a system of transferring money over phones, is an everyday reliable utility. Equity Bank, a fast-growing bank, most of whose customers have never had an account before, has come of age, with mobile technology; its chief executive, James Mwangi, says:

His customers can use any of its 54 products on the move. For technology companies, all this means a growing demand for things: reliable connectivity; software; analysis of date on spending, lending and repayment; and data centres.

Technologies companies say they are keen to serve smaller businesses too. 
Microsoft has announced a programme called  SME4Afrika, which is intended to bring  1m  small and medium sized enterprises online.

Mr de Sousa points out that technology can also draw informal businesses into the formal economy. The ability to use software, computing power and storage online  ''as a service''-

Paying only for what you need and only when you need, may put the cost of information technology within the budget of many small African businesses.

''The person who invented the cloud did it for Africa,'' says Mr Nidaye of  IBM in Senegal.

Mr Kelley makes a bolder claim, linking Africa's emergence to that of  ''big data'' IBM's answer to how the world can cope with the rising torrent of exabytes is
: ''' Cognitive Computing. '''

Instead of being given detailed instructions, cognitive companies are fed masses of  data  and use statistical analysis to answer complex questions.

Watson,  IBM's  first of this kind, was clever enough to win  ''Jeopardy'' , an American television  quiz  show, beating human champions hollow.

The true purpose of a Watson, however, is not to show off on television but to sift data from radio telescopes to provide medical diagnoses.    

So, as the tale continues,  -and then Mr Ndemo spoke up:
''Let us bring Watson here in nine months.''

Yes, Africa has plenty of problems. Computing power can help Africa solve them in no time.

At !WOW!  -when I ask for help with questions like : ''Where the hell is the government spending its money? What are the operational costs of these projects in Sindh and KPK?  OR

Where the hell is the  ''Critical Path Management''   of Project X in KPK?'''

The Samurai give me the look,  -the one they normally reserve for people who speak  ''The Languages of Jihad.''

It could be. It could just be, that the Samurai are right? And I go take on, Imran Khan? Hahaha!

Well, I just may. But you all will do well to remember that when push comes to shove,  ''Prime Minister Imran Khan'', -is one formidable adversary. And let's not try learning the hard way!  Hahaha! 

Right Prime Minister?!  Right!.......So, see you all  later.   

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the developing world and Africa. See Ya all on  !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' No Longer On Hold '''

Good Night and God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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