Wednesday, June 25, 2008

IBM opens Africa innovative centre in SA

The International Business Machines (IBM) has launched the Africa Innovation Centre, the first of its kind on the continent to drive information technology skills development and address business challenges in the economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The new centre, launched Tuesday in South Africa, according to Nathi Sukazi of IBM Communications, is part of IBM’s $120 million, two-year investment through to 2009 that includes new market expansion initiatives and houses Africa’s first cloud computing centre.

Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy President, Republic of South Africa, Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said they are highly energised by IBM’s investment because it directly responds to calls for increased private sector investment into sustainable initiatives that advance priority technical skills.

It is also encouraging that the company’s plans integrate the entire Sub-Saharan Africa, which assures us that in the long term we will secure a thriving South Africa in a prosperous region.

Senior Vice President and Group Executive, IBM Software Group, Mr. Steve Mills, said “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.”

He said that this kind of commitment is backed by IBM’s globally integrated enterprise strategy driven by a newly created IBM Growth Markets Organisation to accelerate the company’s performance in rapidly expanding markets including Africa.

As said by him, IBM is already working with almost 300 software companies in Sub-Saharan Africa, just as the new centre will offer access to IBM’s global network of 39 IBM Innovation Centres and 60 research and development labs.

Mills explained that the centre would showcase business approaches and open technologies such as cloud computing, Web 2.0 technologies, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and systems management.

“It will also demonstrate next generation banking systems offered at the Banking Centre of Excellence as part of the new innovation centre, and environmentally-friendly computing designs.

In cloud computing, dynamically-shared computing resources are virtualized and accessed as a service, making it a particularly attractive proposition for small to large-sized companies in Africa,” he said.

Mr. Mills further said that the new IBM Africa Innovation Centre, designed to fuel entrepreneurship and growth in the region, would offer an array of resources for IBM business partners, software start-ups, IT professionals and academia, enabling them to develop skills and deliver solutions to global markets using IBM’s open architecture.

Business Champion recalls that Africa was most recently the theme of IBM’s 2007 Global Innovation Outlook (GIO), a global thought leaders’ forum on the changing nature of innovation that has a positive impact on business and society.

The GIO indicated that factors critical to the continent’s future included skills; infrastructure development and financing for small business.

The Managing Director and Country General Manager for IBM Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Mark Harris, said the Africa Innovation Centre puts South Africa on the global radar of IBM’s business strategy as the firm continues to be an active partner in the continent’s economic 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 added.

In addition to establishing a $15-million IBM Business Continuity and Recovery Services facility last year in Cresta, northwest of Johannesburg, IBM this year plans to donate a $1.5 million Blue Gene supercomputer to the Meraka Institute, which will be hosted by the Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town. It will be used by a range of stakeholders on the continent for challenging social, economic, and environmental issues as well as for skills development.

IBM has operated on the African continent for more than 55 years and counts the Johannesburg-based Integrated Delivery Centre, which was launched in March 2006, among its latest strategic investments. From this centre, IBM provides professional technology services to global organisations in Europe, the U.S. and South Africa, and has created 1,500 direct jobs.

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