IBM to set up first research lab in Nairobi

August 13, 2012
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Under the partnership, Kenya will provide the necessary environment and facilitate setting up the lab at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Langata/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 13 – The government has announced a partnership between Kenya and IBM East Africa, which will result in the first IBM research lab in Kenya that will contribute to growth in mobile money technology, creation of high value jobs and drive innovation while helping the country become a leading modern services economy.

Under the partnership, Kenya will provide the necessary environment and facilitate setting up the lab at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Langata.

“Kenya stood out and the reason it stood out was we found in place a very comprehensive, bold and impressive strategy in the form of Vision 2030,” IBM Research Global Labs Vice President Robert Morris revealed.

“Vision 2030 stood out to us because it was a long term vision accompanied with shorter term steps, pacing, deployment and execution,” he explained.

The research facility, which will be operational by September, will allow for the completion of basic and applied research focused on solving problems relevant to Africa, while contributing to the building of a science and technology base for the continent.

Earlier in the day, President Mwai Kibaki and IBM Global Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty signed a memorandum of understanding to officially flag-off the setting up of the lab and the President said IBM’s commitment to undertake the proposed research agenda will contribute greatly to the country’s national priorities as part of Kenya’s Vision 2030 agenda.

“We look forward to delivering world-class research and innovation through the partnership and playing an important role as an IT leader on the African continent,” the president stated.

President Kibaki said that it was timely that the establishment of the research lab came on the heels of the Konza Technology City Conference in which the country rallied to attract investors into Africa’s Savanah ICT Park that will drive Kenya towards achieving middle income status.

He noted that the presence of the new global research lab in the country will align Kenya’s three pillars of global competitiveness and enhance the country’s leadership position as an innovation hub in the continent.

He added that the research lab will also boost the country’s ability to develop, attract and retain key research scientists and ICT experts while stimulating the growth of a research eco-system linking Kenya’s expert matter with world class research.

Rometty said that IBM will integrate leading African scientists and engineers from the government and the industry to expand its operations in key growth markets to bring the continent into the global network of research laboratories.

“The lab will establish an international recruitment program to reach Kenyan and other African applicants with the aim of attracting top research and development talent to work side by side with IBM researchers in the lab,” she said.

She revealed that they will conduct research in three key areas including next generation public sector to help advance e-government capabilities, smarter cities with the initial focus on water and transportation and human capacity development to boost the innovation culture in Kenya and to engage local entrepreneurs and innovators in developing solutions that matter to Kenyans.

Information PS Bitange Ndemo revealed that the partnership is a five year arrangement in which the government will contribute about Sh167.1 million per year and he added that working with IBM will help capacity building and employment in the country.

“IBM choosing to come to Kenya is very big for us in the sense that we’ll look at how we can make our youth employable, especially those coming from university,” he said.

“This is something that has eluded us for many years, but here we have a partner to do research in this area, to do research on modern governments and to help our government become more productive,” he added.

Kenya ICT Board CEO Paul Kukubo said that the partnership with IBM will help advance the ICT Board’s agenda of transforming Kenya.

“The Kenya ICT Board has various projects that will compliment the work of the IBM lab. These are in software certification, open data, enterprise incubation and support for public sector digitisation,” he said.

Ndemo added: “In today’s world, innovation is the main lever for a competitive national economy, is a source of employment and has the potential to improve lives. The IBM research lab, will not only rubber stamp Kenya as Africa’s leader in ICT, but will help the country to transform into a knowledge based economy.”

The new facility is only the 12th IBM research lab in the world and in the past, IBM research labs have been credited with the invention of the relational database, disk storage and DRAM memory, along with being recognized with five Nobel Prizes and many leading scientific and technical medals and awards.

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