IBM asks an entire continent to define and illustrate its challenges and opportunities in photos
WHAT happens when you ask an entire continent to define and illustrate its challenges and opportunities in photos?
That’s exactly what IBM’s newest research lab wanted to find out. IBM Research - Africa, which opened its doors in November 2013, was created with an ambitious mission: to conduct applied and far-reaching exploratory research into the grand challenges of the African continent by delivering commercially-viable innovations that impact people’s lives.
The leaders of IBM’s new research lab knew that they needed to take a grassroots approach. “We quickly realised that if we are to make a difference in Africa we need to operate outside of the walls of the lab. While we benefit from 25 PHDs from some of the world’s best universities, it is crucial that we enter a dialogue with the people who best understand their own realities,” says Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, Director, IBM Research – Africa.
Thus was born The World is Our Lab – Africa picture project: a three-month competition that asked participants to use cameras and smartphones to capture images that illustrate the continent’s grand challenges, city systems and innovation.
Over the course of three months, over 1,200 contributions were uploaded by 900 participants from 25 African countries ranging from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa to Algeria, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Together the images create a rich collage of life across Africa - its people, its systems, its infrastructure - from the continent's toughest realities to the most modern and inspirational.
The project provides unique perspectives on the areas of water, education, transportation, energy, public safety, healthcare, mobile and entrepreneurship – all focus areas of IBM’s new lab which is soon to benefit from Watson cognitive technologies which IBM is bringing to Africa through its 10-year, $100M Project Lucy initiative.
“These images show an Africa well in touch with its own challenges while harnessing the creative energy necessary for turning them into opportunities. They act as a window onto the communities which we hope will benefit from our work and serve as a useful resource for our research staff and partners, " adds Bhattacharya.
- by Jonathan Batty, IBM Global Labs