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IBM researchers in Africa. Those are some heavy formulas! (via IBM)

 

IBM recently opened its twelfth global research laboratory in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, in an effort to tap local resources both natural and human to bolster the city’s community through technology. According to the company’s press release, the lab’s agenda is to help with the development of cognitive computing technologies to help the city address issues such as public health, education and agriculture. Current project initiatives include reducing traffic congestion through mobile phones using an application (Twende Twende) that take advantage of the city’s local camera systems to provide users with alternate routes. Digital advertising for small businesses is another initiative; small business owners can promote themselves through mobile phone advertising (77% of Nairobi’s population currently use mobile technology).

 

 

Finally, the research lab is promoting a new resident scientist program for universities in Kenya and other surrounding countries to work alongside IBM researchers to develop new technologies. It is estimated that in 20 years the city will have the largest population of young people on the planet, who will be seeking new and upcoming technology. Students looking to pursue carriers in the sciences can only help put Nairobi on the technology map to compete with those found in Asia, Europe and the US. Other companies have transitioned over to Kenya to establish regional headquarters or manufacturing plants, including GE, Google, Airtel and Cisco Systems to tap into the country’s burgeoning resources. Unfortunately, the country is ripe with poverty, corruption (specifically in terms of water and sanitation companies) and the onslaught of terrorism (for example the recent Al-Shabaab attack on Westgate Mall), which could have a negative impact for tech companies looking for long-term investment. Still, it gives those in one of the most prominent African nations the opportunity to become the continent’s ‘Silicon Valley’.

 

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