IBM and Mubadala bring Watson to the MENA region

By | 5 minute read | December 31, 2015

From ways to manage diabetes, to new market approaches for regional retail leaders, the next frontier for IBM Watson and cognitive computing solutions is in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

In an IBM collaboration with Mubadala — a regional leader in investment and development  — will deliver powerful cloud-based cognitive computing services, to health care, retail, education, banking and finance organizations throughout MENA.  Together they will also create a broad local ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, partners and app developers who will apply Watson in innovative ways.

Watson is able to interact in natural language, analyze large volumes of unstructured data, respond to complex questions with evidence-based answers, and discover new actionable patterns and insights. In the Middle East and North Africa, Watson represents a brand new host of opportunities for technology, healthcare, retail, education, and entrepreneurs of all kinds.

“This partnership is another important demonstration of IBM’s commitment to bringing Watson to all corners of the world,” said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson. “Our collaboration with Mubadala will enable us to help local organizations and entrepreneurs use Watson to transform their work.”

In fact, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts the worldwide content analytics, discovery, and cognitive systems software market will grow from $4.5 billion in 2014 to $9.2 billion in 2019, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15%.

Here are some of the ways Watson’s cognitive computing will change the landscape for MENA’s innovators.

Watson’s Impact: Healthcare and Other Sectors

Healthcare professionals have been early adopters of Watson.  IBM is partnering with key hospitals and research institutes in the United States, and the potential cognitive computing represents for MENA healthcare leaders is likewise enormous. One of those partners includes the the Cleveland Clinic who is working to advance Watson’s capabilities in medical education and genomics. Mubadala and the Cleveland Clinic have  also established a preeminent world-class hospital in Abu Dhabi.

“Our collaborations with IBM to apply Watson in health care, and with Mubadala to increase accessibility of world-class care, are helping Cleveland Clinic deliver on our mission of compassionate, high quality care,” said Toby Cosgrove, CEO and President, Cleveland Clinic. “We are pleased to see these two market leaders join together in this important region and believe that their work together will help make it possible for a broader group of medical professionals to unearth the information they need to provide patient-centered care.”

  • The MENA region has the world’s highest prevalence of diabetes, which affects nearly 10 percent of the population. Mubadala and IBM could potentially leverage partnerships and capabilities through IBM Watson Health to help medical organizations address this growing local health challenge.
  • Healthcare providers in the Middle East and North Africa will spend $2.86 billion (USD) on information-technology products and services in 2015, according to Gartner. The time is perfect for Watson to join that emphasis on development.
  • Mubadala and the IBM Watson Health initiative are poised to put Watson’s big-data analytics into the hands of doctors and researchers who can create new strategies for a healthier region overall.

Beyond healthcare, according to a report released ahead of the 2015 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, technology stands to be a game-changer in spurring entrepreneurship and professional opportunities in MENA’s emerging digital economy. Watson is positioned to help professionals in retail, education, and banking fields.

Within financial services, Watson can be used to help advisors manage risk, provide personalized guidance and investment options, and improve the advice and experience delivered to their customers.

Watson can also be applied within education to help students make key decisions, determine which course options meet their curriculum needs and assist in finding answers to commonly asked questions.

Technology and Watson: Expanding Infrastructure, Entrepreneurship and Education in the Region

As industries expand and innovate throughout the MENA region, Watson will be at the center of a growing technology hub. The stage is set for public and private expansion, especially along information-technology lines.

  • Gartner projects the Middle East’s IT spending to reach $214.7 billion (USD) in 2015 — a 5.2% increase from 2014.
  • Governments in the MENA region will spend $11.97 billion on IT products and services in 2015, according to Gartner, an increase of 0.4% over 2014 spending of $11.92 billion.
  • Public cloud-services markets in the MENA region are projected to grow 17.1%, in 2015, to total $851 million — up from an estimated $727 million in 2014.

This means jobs and resources, region-wide — a cumulative $820 billion to regional GDP and an extra 4.4 million much-needed jobs by 2020, according to Strategy& estimates.

Meanwhile, a recent survey also shows that MENA-based ed-tech startups are responding to challenges in the public-education sector. Projects include Arabic-language education and preparing students for end-of-high-school exams. Entrepreneurs in the region can look forward to the potential of tapping Watson’s cognitive computing solutions in these efforts as well.

Watson Worldwide: Expanding and Innovating Around the Planet

Thousands of organizations and developers around the world are working with Watson on new ways to promote growth and opportunity in much the same way as the MENA region will experience.

  • Watson kicked off Project Lucy in Africa, in 2014. Deployed from IBM’s Africa Research lab, Watson’s cognitive computing solutions are giving scientists new opportunities to study and change the face of African healthcare, education, water, sanitation, human mobility, and agriculture.
  • Entrepreneurs and developers in Japan are plugging into the Watson ecosystem, too, creating and enhancing business and technology applications throughout the country. Partner SoftBank is applying Watson to its call centers and using its cognitive computing natural language capabilities to assist in staff training. It’s all aimed at reaching technology companies with new ideas, innovations, and energy for change. The deployment in Japan is also the first time IBM Watson was trained in native Japanese.

With global partners and industry-domain projects underway in Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and South Africa, Watson’s new home in the MENA region is part of a worldwide effort. And it’s one from which everyone can benefit.

“Watson represents a new era in computing where systems will understand the world in the way that humans do — through senses, learning and experience,” said Rhodin. “With the joint venture we will work together to make cognitive computing systems the new computing standard for enterprises at the cutting edge of innovation throughout the region.”

Most Popular Articles