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Posted at 02:03 PM ET, 08/13/2012

IBM announces research laboratory in Kenya

On the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, IBM business consultant Shadrack Kioko captures data on road conditions and traffic congestion in the capital city. (Nichole Sobecki - Feature Photo Service for IBM - NAIROBI, KENYA)

Technology company IBM will be opening a research laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya — the first of its research labs on the African continent. The announcement came via a news release Monday.

IBM president Ginni Rometty met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to mark the announcement. The laboratory, IBM Research - Africa, is being launched in a partnership between IBM and the Kenyan Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).

IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty (left) meets with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to commemorate the announcement of IBM's first research lab in Africa, Aug. 13, 2012. (Feature Photo Service for IBM - NAIROBI, KENYA)
The lab will explore three “key research areas,” according to the release, including the “next generation public sector,” creating “smarter cities” with a focus on water and transportation and the development of human capacity. The lab will leverage IBM’s existing big data technologies, advanced analytics, and cloud computing technology as part of the “next generation public sector” initiative. The lab will also, in conjunction with academia and the public and private sectors, create Intelligence Operation Centers in African cities to improve water and transportation throughout the continent.

IBM Research - Africa will also be home to a Resident Scientist Program to recruit top R&D talent throughout the continent. Ideal candidates will be pre- and post-doctoral researchers in either academia or the private sector. Resident Scientists will be given one-year tenure with the opportunity for renewal and will have access to IBM’s talent both at IBM Research - Africa and throughout the company’s global research laboratory network.

The lab is IBM’s 12th worldwide and the latest footprint the company is making on the continent, where it has had a presence for the past 60 years across 20 countries. IBM Research - Africa will bring the company’s research resources to bear on some of the world’s most in­trac­table and long-standing problems, affecting a rapidly growing population with increasing access to consumer technology, particularly cell phones.

What do you think: Is IBM Research - Africa a step in the right direction for bolstering innovation on the continent?

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