IBM brings its Quantum computing program to 16 African universities – TechCrunch


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IBM today launched its Quantum computing program in Africa, announcing a partnership with Wits University of South Africa that will expand to 15 universities in nine countries.

Quantum – or IBM Q, as the US-based company calls it – is a computer that uses quantum bits (or qubits) to outperform the capabilities of the most advanced supercomputers.

When launching in early 2019, IBM said, “Q systems are designed to someday solve problems… considered too complex and exponential in nature to be handled by traditional systems. He named future IBM Q applications in financial data, minimizing global financial risk and optimizing logistics.

On how Q works: “These are not your usual zeros and ones. It’s about layering states to create a qubit, ”IBM Research Africa vice president Solomon Assefa told TechCrunch on a call.

“Because of that, and the fact that there are so many different states, the amount of computation you can do becomes exponential. “

IBM Q operates out of the IBM Yorktown Heights research center in New York and will be accessible from African universities via the cloud.

IBM believes Q could generate research and development advances in areas such as the discovery of drugs based on Africa’s genetic diversity that could lead to new treatments for diseases like HIV or tuberculosis.

This is one of the research areas IBM will focus on as it rolls out Q Africa in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Assefa sees further research and potential use cases for Q Africa in the financial sectors, mining and natural resource management.

“What excites me here is for once that we are ahead in Africa to join this movement. In five to 10 years, Q will have a significant impact, but if we can start the wave now, you never know what kind of applications and research will come out of this technology, ”said Assefa.

Wits University will manage access to Q from the 15 additional African educational institutions, including the University of Addis Ababa, the University of Nairobi and the University of Lagos.

IBM will also host a camp for 200 computer scientists using Q in Johannesburg in December. Researchers interested in working with IBM Q can apply online.

The program is part of IBM Research Africa’s extensive development on the continent, since launching a facility in Kenya in 2013 and expanding to South Africa in 2016. In Africa, IBM Research has expanded its capabilities to a number of partnerships, including blockchain. – enabled collaborations with agtech startups Twiga and Hello Tractor.

IBM also maintains a large business services and consulting activity in Africa, to which its research activities may apply.

According to Assefa, it could be a long way off before Q tackles it. “We are developing commercial grade Q machines… in terms of applicability to Africa, this is still just the beginning,” he said.

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Gordon K. Morehouse