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Getting Next Generation Of Students Quantum Ready

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For Africa to remain competitive for the coming decades, the next generation of students must be quantum ready, the vice president, Emerging Market Solutions and director, IBM Research – Africa, Dr. Solomon Assefa , has said.

“Though classical computing has served society incredibly well, many of the world’s biggest mysteries and potentially greatest opportunities remain beyond the grasp of standard computers. To continue the pace of progress, we need to augment the classical approach with a new platform, one that follows its own set of rules. It’s called quantum computing,” he said.

The concept of “quantum computing” recently going viral is one of the many uncharted territories of science by non-scientific peeps. The reason being that for the most part it’s theoretical and those who were experimenting on it at the beginning failed to communicate the enormous potentials it holds.

Quantum computing promises to be able to solve certain problems – such as chemical simulations and types of optimization – that will forever be beyond the practical reach of classical machines.

In its efforts to groom the upcoming generation and prepare them to fully utilize potentials in quantum to tackle challenges and provide solutions, the sixth largest tech company in the world, IBM announced the expansion of its computing efforts to Africa, saying it is set to build the capacity of African students across South Africa and 15 universities who are part of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) to fully take advantage of the technology in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in South Africa. Wits University is the first African partner on the IBM Q Network and will be the gateway for academics across South Africa and to the 15 universities who are part of the alliance.

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), inaugurated in Dakar in March 2015, brings together 16 of the region’s leading universities from different countries and different historical backgrounds, in a network with a common vision: to expand and enhance significantly the quality of research done in Africa by African researchers.

As part of the partnership between IBM and Wits, scholars from sixteen ARUA universities including: Addis Ababa University; University of Ghana; University of Nairobi; University of Lagos; University of Ibadan; Obafemi Awolowo University lle-Ife; University of Rwanda; University Cheikh Anta Diop; University of Cape Town; University of Kwa-Zulu Natal; University of Pretoria; Rhodes University; University of Stellenbosch; University of the Witwatersrand; University of Dar es Salaam and Makerere University, will have the opportunity to apply for access to IBM Q’s most-advanced quantum computing systems and software for teaching quantum information science and exploring early applications. To gain access to the IBM Q quantum cloud service, ARUA scholars will be required to submit quality research proposals to a scientific committee of Wits and IBM experts for approval.

“This is the latest outcome of the joint partnership between IBM Research and Wits, which started in 2016 when IBM opened its second lab in Africa in Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg. To expand the IBM Q Network to include Wits will drive innovation in frontier-technologies and benefit African-based researchers, academics and students who now have access to decades of quantum computing capabilities at the click of a button,” said Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi.

According to him, “Having access to IBM Q is pivotal for Wits University’s cross-disciplinary research program and allows our researchers in quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and in the broad natural sciences, including in laser technology, quantum optics and molecular design, to leverage the next level of discovery research. It’s envisioned that the first results from this collaboration will be forthcoming in the next two years.”

LEADERSHIP gathered that the three universities in Nigeria, University of Lagos; University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University lle-Ife will have the opportunity to apply for access to IBM Q’s most-advanced quantum computing systems and software for teaching quantum information science and exploring early applications.  African universities will access IBM’s quantum computer at no cost.

A statement by the communications leader, IBM East and West Africa, Betty Gachenge noted that the tech giant first made quantum computers available to the public in May 2016 through its IBM Q Experience quantum cloud service and has doubled the power of its quantum computers annually since 2017, adding IBM established the IBM Q Network™, a community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions and research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science.

It further said IBM’s recently unveiled IBM Q System One, is the world’s first integrated universal approximate quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use.

“IBM’s most advanced universal quantum computing systems are available through the IBM Q Experience platform. More than 10 million experiments have run on the IBM Q Experience and users have published over 160 third-party research papers. Also, developers can work with  Qiskit, a full-stack, open-source quantum software development kit, to create and run quantum computing programs.

“To further increase skills development, IBM Q is hosting an invite-only Qiskit Camp in South Africa this December for 200 quantum researchers and computer scientists where they will learn in an immersive environment and receive hands-on training,” it added.

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