Today IBM announced a new software package, part of IBM's Smart Work initiative, that takes advantage of the rising popularity of disruptive technology -- low-cost netbooks, cloud computing and Linux -- to make collaboration software and services more affordable to businesses and governments across Africa. With the IBM Client for Smart Work, IBM hopes to bridge the so-called "digital divide" in Africa and beyond.
IBM estimates that African governments could halve their IT licensing, administration and maintenance costs -- freeing up money for disaster management, education and healthcare. Businesses that could not afford traditional PCs for all employees can now use a variety of devices and low-cost software to equip workers with the ability to work smarter anywhere.
Arguably you could see this as a business software version of the One Laptop Per Child program that focuses on delivering organizations access to really inexpensive computing.
African organizations can get started today with IBM Lotus Symphony running ‘in premise’ on their netbooks, and then add the social networking features as the cloud infrastructure builds out in Africa -- which varies by country and city. With new high-speed internet access to East Africa, connectivity is improving.
IBM worked with South African entrepreneur and founder of Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth, on the offering. See Mark’s comments on the opportunities for open technologies in emerging markets in a video here.
An article in the Wall Street Journal quoted Venansius Barya Baryamureeba, Dean of the Faculty of Computing and IT at Makerere University in Uganda saying:
If IBM keeps its part of the bargain and provides cloud-based applications at affordable prices then this service will revolutionize businesses in Africa.
This initiative follows the opening of the IBM Africa Innovation Center in Cape Town last week . The center supports IBM's efforts to help grow the burgeoning local IT ecosystem and is a key addition to IBM's US$120 million, two-year market expansion investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Watch this space to hear more about how emerging markets are turning to innovative approaches to equip their workforces to work smarter.