(WeForum.agenda) Solomon Assefa, Vice-president, emerging market solutions; director for IBM Research writes that Africa needs to act now and not miss the new quantum tech era. “We need to educate, we need to skill up and we need to brainstorm around the most pressing African use cases.”
Assefa explains why quantum computing is important to Africa. Africans still have more diversity than the rest of the world combined. Such diversity is a treasure trove of genetic information. This includes the ability to more easily infer the role of different genes (by averaging over more varieties) and also discovering natural immunities to diseases. Quantum computing promises to open exciting new avenues of research in this personalized medicine including simulating the effects of certain medicines on your body, hastening the process of drug discovery and ushering in an era of personalized medicine.
Another African resource is the clarity of the continent’s night skies at high altitudes. This won southern African countries the prestige of being selected to host what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Array (SKA). The quantum computing expertise that must be fostered to fulfill the goal of making sense of the raw SKA data would also have local spin-off benefits for Africa.
Africa also has raw talent? South Africa has a history of innovation in quantum physics–the Nobel prize for the invention of the CAT scan), and even recent surprising successes in the supercomputing field, which is strongly intertwined with the quantum field.