Ghana emerging on  the cognitive frontier

Ghana emerging on the cognitive frontier

Technology and top talent will continue to compete for society’s attention. As the world moves towards the 4th industrial age, companies, economies and societies will increasingly be driven by data analytics, interconnectivity and the application of the cognitive sciences enabled by the cloud. Individuals who understand these new areas of computing will never lack work.


Institutions which invest in the right tools and technologies will always grow, anticipating, meeting and exceeding stakeholder expectations. Clearly, technology will continue to define the new way of working and by default, the health of nations in the foreseeable future.

Perhaps, we should ask ourselves a series of simple but important questions: Is Africa ripe and ready for technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI), industrial automation and driverless cars? Can Ghana begin to take the lead in some of these “new realities”? What is Ghana’s (and Africa’s) global aspiration? What is Ghana’s appetite and economic capacity for transformative change? How can we better use technology to resolve our grand development challenges, which IBM Research Africa once listed off as education, health care, food security (agriculture), transportation and traffic management, electrification, water and waste management, economic and financial inclusion?

And how can we make technology education and acquisition a priority – for our people and institutions?

To tackle these issues adequately, we must understand that simply having good intentions will not be good enough. We must move beyond intentions to acquiring the insights, knowledge and tools that will move our society forward. Enabling this transformative journey will mean increased investment in cloud and cognitive technologies for consistently improving the management of data, which is now the world’s newest natural resource.

It is as clear as day and night that societies that do not embrace technology fast or well enough may become disenfranchised from the fruits and features of sustainable social practices and modern economic development, as the surging high-tech, sharing global ecosystem disrupts everything from transportation to food delivery. Already, and perhaps thankfully, a substantial share of Ghana’s youthful population are millennials – folks born in the 1980s. These generation of citizens are technology savvy, adept at mining the treasures of data and consequently a growing influence on workplace culture.

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For businesses, it has long been true that data rules clients’ decisions and strategies. But how much are we getting from data? Not enough, because as much as 80 per cent of the data out there is unstructured or functionally useless. Even with the most sophisticated AI system, we can’t get insights from inaccessible data, and cognitive tools are only as good as the data they leverage.

To overcome this problem, organisations need to harness top-tier machine learning and analytics capabilities to sift through the noise and pinpoint useful signals. That leaves the question of how — and who. To drive these efforts, companies need to hire top AI and cognitive developers. These developers, paired with data scientists, can help decipher insights from data to better power the tools of tomorrow.

Ride the unstoppable wave

The world of today is driven by data and is being rewritten in code. Developers are the essential architects of this shifting reality. Entire work flows and purchasing cycles at the consumer and enterprise levels have been digitised, as fast-moving technologies push our limits. In light of this change, virtual and augmented reality, digital assistants and the promise of AI are just some of the new world possibilities.

Think of the ordinary household items that have been “AI’ed.” Thermostats and security cameras are smart. Ovens can tell you when your chicken is perfect. Smart TVs, smart cameras, even networked robots in plants and warehouses are transforming work and life as we know it. Software developers are embracing cognitive technologies to keep pace. Analysts firm IDC predict that by 2018, 50 per cent of developer teams will embed cognitive capabilities in their applications.

The developer challenge: New tech and pervasive data

Big data and analytics tools have changed the way organisations understand themselves, their partners and their clients. For instance, data and effective analysis tools have taken the place of traditional surveys to drive a more meaningful understanding of customers and their journey. An organisation looking to tap into how customers are feeling can now use tools, such as a sentiment analysis API, that sifts through millions of social media posts to discover how consumers feel about brands in real time. These APIs are driven by cognitive technology that can review terabytes of data for what really matters. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Getting ahead of the curve

Cognitive business is the wave of the future. Organisations and their developers must be the architects of this next great technological shift. Launching cognitive developer training and certification programmes can be a good start. IBM continues to support the Ghanaian technology ecosystem with business management and tech skills development training and education.

The market is hungry for better ways to identify top-notch talent and the tools they produce. For a surefire competitive advantage, organisations need AI/cognitive developers who speak the language, take action and proactively develop innovative and useful ways to leverage the technology and data around us.

In the end, those who push themselves ahead by acquiring and fostering the right talent right now will win. Those who don’t will be left behind.

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