IBM introduces Watson to Africa and the Middle East

IBM partners with Abu Dhabi development company Mubadala to introduce Watson services in the region

With the help from the city of Abu Dhabi, IBM will offer its Watson-based data analysis services to the Middle East and North Africa.

Under the partnership, the Abu Dhabi-based investment and development company Mubadala will introduce Watson to its network of regional companies, entrepreneurs, start ups and application developers, hoping to entice them to use Watson to build new products and services.

The collaboration will focus on bringing Watson to the geographical area known as MENA (Middle East and North Africa).

Mubadala subsidiary Injazat, an information technology services company, will act as the preferred provider of Watson technology in the region.

IDC has estimated that MENA is one of the fastest growing IT markets in the world. Spending on information and communications technology in the area will exceed US $270 billion in 2015, according to the analyst firm.

Initially, IBM and Mubadala will pitch the Watson services for use in the health care industry. The analytics services could be used to build systems that offer personalized recommendations, based on user data.

The Cleveland Clinic, for instance, has already worked with Mubadala to open a hospital in Abu Dhabi, and has also worked with IBM to use Watson to provide computer-aided training tools for its medical students. The health care system hopes the partnership will generate new services that will help the hospital more effectively use patient data.

Regional retail, education and finance companies could also be early adopters of the service, IBM predicted.

As a collection of cognitive computing technologies, Watson debuted in 2011 as the first computer-based competitor on the U.S. "Jeopardy" game show.

IBM has since commercialized Watson through a number of offerings, including the IBM Watson Developer Cloud on Bluemix, which offers 25 different general use artificial intelligence-based services. It also offers Watson Health, a set of services focused on helping the health care industry.

In 2014, IBM pledged $100 million to bring Watson to scientists in African countries, in an initiative called Project Lucy.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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