IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems - May 2018 - 49
Assefa's certainly in the right
place to provide answers to that
question. A prolific research
scientist in the field of phototonics with more than 50 patents
and 150 co-authored articles to
his name, he works with government, academia and enterprise to
understand the potential impact
for cloud computing, artificial
intelligence (AI) and big data to
impact and improve the lives of
the world's poorest.
IBM's Bold Investment
Three years ago, IBM announced
that it would be investing in a second African Research Lab to join its
existing facility in Nairobi, Kenya.
The new lab is based in Johannesburg's Tshimologong Precinct.
The precinct had been recently
purchased by the nearby University of the Witswatersrand (Wits).
Professor Barry Dwolatzky of the
School of Electrical and Information Engineering had somehow
managed-over the course of
several years-to convince his
employer that it should engage
in an ambitious plan to turn a
shuttered nightclub and disused
offices into a thriving innovation
hub, around which it was hoped a
high-tech business cluster would
emerge. Its name, Tshimologong,
is a seSotho word that means
Remarkably, Dwolatzky's vision
of a space where academia, multinational technology firms and
innovators from the city meet,
mingle and share ideas is coming
to fruition. Today, the precinct is
home to several dedicated startup
accelerators run by Wits, in
diverse partnerships that include
the Dutch Embassy, Ryerson
University, the city of Johannesburg, South Africa's state-owned
Journalists for Human Rights and,
of course, some of IBM's best
Dwolatzky had a
vision to turn a
shuttered nightclub and disused
offices into an
Standing on the corner of the
precinct, the lab provided the
catalyst for further investments
in the area. The IBM branding
across the facade emboldens
IBM's "THINK" motto, which
is appropriate following IBM's
10-year commitment to the
precinct that was announced in
August 2016 with great fanfare. It
Computer-Aided Cancer Care
David Moinina Sengeh is a soft-spoken Sierra Leonean who began working with IBM in 2016 after earning
his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sengeh's first project at IBM was with a team of
researchers who deployed and evaluated a decision support system to help a district health management team
in Sierra Leone during the post-Ebola recovery period. He now leads the healthcare team in Johannesburg.
"We want to develop solutions that we can deploy," Sengeh says. "There's a fine line between pushing
state-of-the-art results through innovation and building tools that will actually have impact."
This kind of consideration is key. According to World Health Organization figures, Kenya-population 48
million-had just 12 registered oncologists in 2014. Ethiopia-population 102 million-had only four. A large part
of the problem is "brain drain" (i.e., qualified doctors leaving to practice in places like India, where there are better
facilities and pay).
One of the flagship projects being worked on is a "cancer guidelines navigator," which is being designed in
partnership with medical specialists around the continent, IBM Health Corps and the American Cancer Society.
The plan is to analyze data input into such a tool to explore courses of treatment based on standardized guidelines and global best practices. The solution is designed to assist practitioners with advice based on local
"There's little point recommending courses of treatment that aren't available or that require extra spending,"
Sengeh explains. "We're trying to build and deploy solutions that can save time and money and help people
make better decisions."
Sengeh and his colleagues are aiming for a comprehensive solution by integrating data collection platforms
with analytical tools that can inform patient care. Many sub-Saharan nations don't have a national cancer registry.
Even where they do exist-such as in South Africa-it can take five years for records to be manually added. Digitizing and improving this process will be vital to future research.
ibmsystemsmag.com MAY 2018 // 49