South Africa’s Progress in Becoming Quantum Ready
(IBM.QuantumBlog) In June 2019 IBM Quantum announced the expansion of its quantum computing efforts to Africa in a new collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in South Africa. Wits University became the first African academic partner in the IBM Quantum Network and a gateway for academic collaboration across South Africa with 15 additional universities that are part of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).
One of the groups responsible for some of this progress is led by Prof. Mark Tame at Stellenbosch University. Tame’s students Unathi Skosana and Conrad Strydom are focused on testing small-scale quantum algorithms to understand the limitations of quantum bits or qubits due to noise and imperfections. Prof. Tame hopes that this work provides some answers about what is needed in processor performance for scaling up the algorithms for eventual applications in quantum chemistry for tuberculosis and HIV drug development.
In another project, his student Hjalmar Rall is using IBM Quantum processors, over the cloud, to generate quantum resources (entangled states) and perform quantum operations useful for quantum networking protocols. The goal is to look at approaches that may help in developing South Africa’s future quantum communication infrastructure.
At Wits University in Johannesburg, which shares a campus with IBM Research, are also accessing IBM’s quantum computers via the cloud. Under the supervision of professors Ken Nixon and Krupa Prag, and part of the recently approved “WitsQ: The Wits Quantum Initiative,” students have a number of projects looking to address South African challenges, many of which relate to the efficient use of resources based on optimization problems.
Last year, students Maxine Khumalo and Hazel Chieza benchmarked the Traveling Salesmen Problem (TSP) and the Quadratic Assignment Problem (QAP) on IBM Quantum devices, which they are now updating for a journal submission.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal, located in Durban has been dabbling in quantum machine learning as early as 2014 under the tutelage of Prof. Francesco Petruccione.
Three years later the group started running experiments on IBM’s original five-qubit computer, resulting in a paper on a “minimalistic” distance-based classifier implemented with a quantum interference circuit. This quantum classifier idea was recently generalized to allow for tailored quantum kernels. The early experience with machine learning methods on quantum computers led to a book titled Supervised Learning with Quantum Computers.
Join the IBM Quantum and Wits: Quantum Computing Talks Meet-up group and receive invitations to free virtual lectures on quantum computing in Africa.