IBM’s effort to solve health problems in South Africa

Solomon Assefa (IBM Research) and Zeblon Vilakazi (Wits University) collaborated on the new centre. Image: IBM

Solomon Assefa (IBM Research) and Zeblon Vilakazi (Wits University) collaborated on the new centre. Image: IBM

IBM Research has established a new research centre in South Africa (its second research centre on the African continent), and has announced several new project collaborations in the area of data-driven healthcare.

“South Africa is a tremendous growth and transformation story, yet its increasing population and healthcare delivery shortfalls continue to pose challenges in the country,” said Solomon Assefa, director of IBM Research – Africa.

“With the ability to detect patterns and discover new correlations, cognitive and cloud computing and the Internet of Things can provide potential solutions.”

In relation to data-driven healthcare, the lab’s focus areas include:

  • IBM scientists are designing wearable sensor technology connected to the Watson IoT to trace the spread of highly infectious, communicable diseases. This will enable healthcare organisations and health officials to develop prevention strategies and respond effectively.
  • Scientists are developing cognitive learning approaches to transform cancer reporting, prevention and precision medicine in Africa. The technology is expected to reduce a five-year time lag in cancer statistics reporting to real-time.
  • 65 samples of microbes and bacteria have been collected from 19 bus stations across the city. Once the samples are processed, the results will be available to city planners, public health officials and scientists who will use the data to help officials predict and future prepare for future disease outbreaks and discover new species and biological systems.
  • In early September, scientists from IBM, H3ABioNet and the University of Notre Dame will host a hackathon on anti-malarial drug resistance and drug combination prediction.

IBM research is also involved in a number of project collaborations for digital urban ecosystems and astronomy.