25 June 2008
Multinational computer technology and consulting company IBM has launched the Africa Innovation Centre in Johannesburg – the first of its kind on the continent – to drive IT skills development and address business challenges in the region.
The centre is part of IBM’s US$120-million (about R956.6-million), two-year investment in its African operations, which includes new market expansion initiatives and the development of Africa’s first cloud computing centre.
In cloud computing, dynamically shared computing resources are virtualised and accessed as a service, making it a particularly attractive proposition for small to large-sized companies in Africa.
The centre will showcase business approaches and open technologies such as cloud computing, Web 2.0 technologies, service-oriented architecture and systems management, as well as demonstrate the next generation in banking systems, offered at the Banking Centre of Excellence.
Increased private investment needed
At the official opening of the centre this week, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka lauded IBM’s investment, stating that it directly responded to the government’s call for increased private sector investment in sustainable initiatives that advance priority technical skills.
“We face a big challenge in the world of scarce skills and talent and also to reinvent the way we can learn and educate in line with the global crisis for skills,” she said. “We can go forward successfully through such partnerships which integrate the best of models and approaches across sectors.”
She said that her vision of Africa was one of a continent flourishing in trade with the rest of the world, with information communication technologies being used to educate youngsters and ensure that the continent was in full control of both its natural and intellectual resources.
“The Africa Innovation Centre is a landmark investment for IBM because it represents our commitment to be a partner in the continent’s growth agenda,” said IBM senior vice president and software group executive Steve Mills.
SA on IBM’s ‘global radar’
IBM sub-Saharan Africa MD Mark Harris pointed out that the innovation centre put South Africa on the “global radar” of IBM’s business strategy as they continued to be an active partner in the continent’s transformation into a major global player.
“We see this investment as game-changing and creating enormous opportunities for skills development, industry promotion and economic growth,” he said.
IBM is already working with almost 300 software companies in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the innovation centre will offer access to IBM’s global network of 39 IBM Innovation Centres and 60 research and development labs.
In addition to establishing a $15-million IBM Business Continuity and Recovery Services facility last year in Cresta, northwest of Johannesburg, IBM will this year donate a $1.5-million Blue Gene supercomputer to the Meraka Institute.
The supercomputer be hosted by the Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town and will be used by several stakeholders on the continent for challenging social, economic and environmental issues as well as for skills development.