The innovation driver in emerging markets.
Editor's note: This article is by IBM Research - India Director, and IBM Chief Technologist for South Asia Ramesh Gopinath.
Speaking with a journalist here in Bangalore,
recently, he quoted our website’s
statement: “IBM Research spends over USD $6 billion in research and
development, and has the most number of US patents to its credit.” He then
posed a question that I felt is fundamental to our success: “What are the
drivers for innovations from the labs?”
My response? It is the relentless pursuit of solutions to grand
challenges: looking for innovative solutions to some of the hardest problems we
face in the world, in areas ranging from education to healthcare, financial
services to energy and more.
Africa, where we’ve launched our first lab on the continent in Nairobi,
Kenya, presents the latest set of challenges that require some of the
word's most advanced technologies alongside more frugal approaches. The lab's
research agenda will include the development of cognitive computing
technologies that integrate learning and reasoning capabilities, enabling industry
experts – as well as any citizen – to make better decisions.
In this new era of computing, IBM believes that Africa
has a strategic opportunity to become an early adopter of cognitive systems.
However, at the same time, there is a clear role for what is sometimes referred
to as “frugal innovation.” That is, our teams are working with the idea that
“in the face of nothing, can we create something?”
Innovation Starts With Education
India and Africa both face the challenge of improving higher education
for their growing youth population – or the “youth bulge” as it’s often referred
to. In India, higher education enrollment has increased from 15.5 million in
2006-07 to 17.3 million in 2009-10. But the country lacks adequate
infrastructure to educate them.
Similarly, countries across Africa do not have adequate education and
training options. Illiteracy levels exceed 40 percent in several countries.
Both countries are well poised to reap the benefits of technology advancements
that can not only address the challenges of education for all but transform
existing methods of education.
Researchers at these labs are working on aligning education, employment
and economic sustainability that could be applied across India and Africa. We’re
working on technologies with intelligent content delivery and accessibility, with
an emphasis on social learning that is also personalized – all to improve the
outcomes for the institution and the student.
For example, we’re experimenting with novel delivery models using
ubiquitous devices such as mobile phones or USB drives to deliver curriculum.
We chose these options because it must be low-cost, Internet delay tolerant (or
even be used when disconnected), but can still be shared between students,
instructors, or institutions.
Our teams are also working on deep analytics to evaluate, recommend, tag
and link content; and crowd sourcing techniques to identify valuable and relevant
content, thereby letting users leverage ever-growing content repositories in
scalable and effective ways.
These data driven techniques are being developed to capture and mine
student learning patterns, identify characteristics of the high achievers and
codify these into best practices for other students. Algorithms for mining successful
intervention techniques and using social and mobile capabilities to share these
techniques across the teacher population are also being explored.
While leaders from Africa and India work towards boosting
bi-lateral trade, which has grown exponentially during the past decade and is
expected to reach US $90 billion by 2015, it is perhaps the most opportune time
to invest in mutually beneficial innovation.
Without the burden of technological legacies and
with the benefits of favorable demographics, India and countries across Africa
stand to gain from these educational innovations – and be the drivers of
economic development in the years to come.
Labels: Africa, education, ibm research - india, ibmresearch, mobile