Innovation is key for IBM in 2009

Johannesburg, 24 Nov 2008

Newly appointed CTO of IBM Clifford Foster will focus on driving innovation through its African Innovation Centre (AIC) and partnerships with universities across Africa.

Speaking after the announcement of his appointment, Foster outlined his vision, saying: “My external focus for 2009 will be on driving the AIC concept further into Africa. This is not a South African-centric statement; IBM will be tapping into innovation wherever it happens, foster its growth and turn these ideas into key business concepts.”

First off, will be the unveiling of its Second Life island for Sub-Saharan Africa, in January 2009. The Universities of Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal will be the first centres enabled to build and deliver projects in a virtual world. IBM will also unveil its second AIC lab, in Nairobi, at the beginning of the year.

Another key project Foster will drive in 2009 is the creation of “speed teams” in universities across the country. This concept will see students - partnered by an experienced professional - devise an innovative concept and create a program to manage and implement their concept. The project will be unveiled mid-year 2009, says Foster.

Cloud computing is another key focus. IBM has built a cloud at the University of Pretoria to help further its research agendas. Foster aims to expand cloud computing services to other universities. Foster will also work closely with universities to drive a 'services science' approach to learning.

“This is a key area in universities like Oxford, where there is a drive towards applying services thinking into the curriculum. The University of Pretoria has now included a services-driven course as part of the curriculum in Graduate School.”

Foster acknowledges some key challenges he will face in his new appointment, saying: “I have to look at how do I grow and develop self-reliant individuals within the space of IBM infrastructure, of course. How do I attract the right people through innovation - develop skills and promote the resources we've tapped into?”

While most of IBM's focus for 2009 will be on innovation in higher education, Foster emphasises that the nature of innovation in Africa will see IBM look at ways of tapping into wider knowledge areas.

“A lot of innovations in Africa cannot be dreamed in a lab. Someone needs to be faced with those particular challenges to devise such innovations. It isn't always about the latest emerging technology, but it's also about the small, ubiquitous innovations which change the way people work and live. It's about making those ideas a reality.”

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