Quantum computing brings a new computing paradigm to SA

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Maletsabisa Molapo, research manager, IBM Research Africa.
Maletsabisa Molapo, research manager, IBM Research Africa.

Quantum computing represents a new computing paradigm, and South African organisations need to be becoming quantum ready to take advantage.

This emerged during the IBM Cloud Forum, hosted in partnership with ITWeb, where Susara van den Heever, Director, C&CS at Expert Labs, and Maletsabisa Molapo, research manager at IBM Research Africa outlined how to make the most of clouds with emerging technologies. 

Molapo noted that quantum ecosystems were taking shape globally, including in South Africa. “Companies at the forefront of this transformational shift will gain competitive advantage,” she said. “We strongly encourage companies to think about beginning to explore the capabilities of quantum computing within their industries, to become ‘quantum ready’.”

To become quantum ready, organisations first had to embrace hybrid cloud, she said, since quantum and many other emerging technologies would be delivered through the cloud. Molapo said organisations should also develop the right skill sets, identify quantum champions within the organisations and evaluate which areas of their businesses might be impacted by quantum computing. “Organisations can also start exploring quantum computing by joining the IBM Quantum Network,” she said.

This network provides organisations with access to IBM’s most advanced quantum computing systems and development tools and technical expertise, and involves industrial collaboration, exploring potential practical quantum applications.

Hybrid cloud also supported global collaboration in the deployment of AI, noted van den Heever. She cited the example of the Emergent Alliance, a non-profit collaboration of IBM Data Science and AI Elite (DSE) with Rolls-Royce and other partners and academics to help governments assess the Covid-19 risks and spread.

“None of this would have been possible without a hybrid cloud approach. When Covid hit, you had a ton of researchers wanting to help and make a difference, and a ton of open data all over the place. They had to know what they could use quickly, what they could reuse, what the rules were with regards to the data, which was personal data, and how it could be protected. This is really where the governance that comes built in with the IBM hybrid cloud platform played a huge role, and is a good example of the power of this type of platform. We had about 50 partners and the innovations out of this effort just keep coming.”

Among its innovations, the alliance trained an AI short term predictions model to forecast localized risk indexes up to six days ahead; developed a dashboard to give policymakers a global and comparative view of clusters in countries with similar lockdown measures; and deployed IBM Watson Assistant chatbots to provide the public with travel advisories. The alliance also created a Watson Knowledge Catalogue to facilitate data sharing, a Covid-19 Mobility Estimator, a Long Term Bayesian Epidemiological Model for interventions impact assessment, and dashboards with use cases for sectors such as transportation and accommodation.

“By adopting the hybrid cloud across research, science and industries you are able to get people from different locations and different research backgrounds to innovate together, quickly, to address critical challenges,” she said.

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