IBM’s supercomputer Watson — known for winning Jeopardy! in 2011 — is headed to Africa, the company announced Thursday.
IBM plans to invest $100 million in a 10-year initiative to use Watson and other similar software to help African countries solve development problems, beginning with healthcare and education. IBM’s cognitive computing software mines large volumes of data to answer questions, and improves by learning.
The initiative is called “Project Lucy,” named after the early human ancestor.
Watson could help doctors and nurses process data about cervical cancer, suggesting new approaches for prevention, according to the company. It could also help schools and educational nonprofits identify causes for low school attendance — disease epidemics, contaminated water sources, or family responsibilities, for instance.
“With the ability to learn from 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.”
IBM plans to build a network of research partners in Africa including universities, businesses and development agencies to tap into IBM’s software.
In January, the company created a new business division dedicated to Watson, encouraging outside developers to use its technology. In November, the company launched the Watson Developers Cloud, providing developers with access to Watson’s application programming interface, software kits and educational materials.