Cognitive computing – spearheading the African digital transformation

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Cognitive computing ushers in a new enterprise technology paradigm for Africa’s business leaders and government sectors. This is at a time when rapid urbanisation and increased demand for key services has opened an opportunity for the continent to leapfrog, over legacy systems, into the future. Additionally, rapid adoption of the internet and information open to customers offers them the option to find the most secure and value-driven propositions available in any market.

This creates an environment where every piece of the data an organisation produces needs to be harnessed as useful and relevant business intelligence, where enterprises capture and store a huge volume and variety of unstructured data, mine it and develop more accurate, immediate and meaningful insights. Timely data-driven information that will increase the organisation’s ability to respond, innovate and compete.

The ICT infrastructure of any aspiring organisation today must deliver extreme performance to execute real-time analytics on volumes of big data such as Kenya Power deployment of IBM automated systems in 2014. The system enabled Kenya Power to study and compare real-time and historical data to improve efficiency in business operations while anticipating future customer needs.

Moving forward, increased investment in Africa’s ICT infrastructure will need to continue. We have seen the speed in which a single idea can disrupt an entire industry and the very short space of time it can do so. These are ideas and innovations that spawn from the basis and advantage of the cognitive information.

It follows, however, that your enterprise ICT infrastructure must deliver extremely high performance in order to execute real-time analytics on huge volumes of data, and produce cognitive results.

The industry perspective

Regional demand is now building up for infrastructure systems upgrades that are capable of delivering cognitive benefits, something we are seeing across different sectors.

Of course, the demands of different industries or government entities varies, and there are no one-size fits all. Telecommunications companies, for example, deal with multiple vendors, making the complexity of their infrastructure more comprehensive and larger in size than some other industries. Mining and industrial companies look for high-performance solutions to deal with their own complex business needs.

Banks are an interesting example, as they need to find increasingly more innovative ways to serve both their existing customers with complete security and at a low cost while increasing responsive service offerings for the growing number of small and medium-sized tier entrepreneurs.

IBM’s role in the cognitive age

IBM is playing its own distinct role in the new cognitive era – we have already touched on a few aspects in this regard. We have unique systems and continue to build the right collaborative partnerships in the region.

Complimenting IBM’s cognitive offering to support the region’s digital transformation effort is its blockchain proposition, a technology that is quickly being recognised for its capability to redesign systems, provoking Harvard Business Review to compare blockchain to the Internet. And governments looking to leap into the cognitive era are quick on the heels of adopting it.

Blockchain provides a trusted solution for managing the regulatory systems and numerous intermediary parties across often-complex supply chain systems. These can add time and cost, plus the possibility of error – or worst, tampering. Blockchain helps reduce these vulnerabilities by offering all parties a transparent, synchronised, tamper-resistant and traceable record of all transactions from beginning to end.

Into the future, the drive towards digital transformation will only become stronger, with the need for further innovations as companies witness how the cognitive approach is revolutionising their business models and unleashing an almost infinite scope of possibilities.

One of IBM’s main business targets, as we move into 2017, is to continue to build on our strong channel organisation and strategic partner relationships. By attracting and harnessing the highest level of talent and innovators, and through our dedicated talent development centres, we look forward to working with our clients and partners across new digital spheres of cognitive thinking.

The writer, Ben Mann is the IBM Chief Operating Officer East Africa. 

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