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IBM Launches Global Collaboration Efforts to Spur Economic Development in Africa


Open, Collaborative Approaches to Innovation Will Bring Together Leaders From Business, Government and Academia.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today launched its first-ever public “ThinkPlace Challenge,” a three-week open forum designed to foster global collaboration on innovation opportunities and economic development issues facing the African continent.

The top ideas generated through the ThinkPlace Challenge will help shape the agenda for IBM’s upcoming Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) focus on Africa, and provide longer-term input for IBM’s World Development Initiative (WDI).

The GIO brings together more than 150 global thought leaders for a series of conferences in seven major markets around the world. These GIO sessions, comprising leaders in business, government, academia, NGOs and venture capital, are designed to surface actionable policy issues, investment strategies, business models and technology priorities related to innovation and economic development in the region. In a related effort, IBM recently launched the WDI to advance sustainable, scalable technology solutions that will foster business development in emerging markets at the so-called “base of the pyramid.”

People interested in contributing to the dialogue can access ThinkPlace on IBM’s alphaWorks Services site

“Even in this era of global development and commerce, more than four billion people live on less than $5 per day,” said Mark Harris, General Manager, IBM South Africa. “Philanthropy alone will not create opportunity. To drive economic development in Africa, the private and public sectors need to collaborate to help develop local economies. I believe that these tools and technologies, along with frank and open dialogue, can truly make a difference to the future of this region.”

Pressing Questions for Enabling Economic Growth and Driving Positive Change

Unlike many initiatives focused on Africa, neither the GIO nor the ThinkPlace Challenge will focus on philanthropic programs or charitable aid programs. Instead, the dialogue will emphasize how collaborative innovation and new business models enabled by information technology can help advance the African economy.

Among the questions these programs will explore:

* How can global businesses best partner with local enterprises, universities and governments to build a better platform for economic growth and competitiveness?
* What policy initiatives, infrastructure investments and development programs can advance Africa’s participation in the global economy?
* What specific opportunities are present in developing infrastructure for IT, communications, water and energy? What roles should micro-finance and lending play?

New Forums for Open Collaboration

This initial ThinkPlace Challenge represents the marriage of two of the most powerful open innovation processes IBM has developed in recent years:

* ThinkPlace is an intranet forum that allows IBM’s 350,000 employees to freely submit, collaborate on, and volunteer to work on new ideas. In its first two years, more than 10,000 ideas for new products, services, process improvements and business model innovation have been surfaced on ThinkPlace.
* The GIO is a collaborative brainstorming process that identifies emerging business, technology and societal trends that will lead to thought leadership and collaborative commercial opportunities for IBM, its clients and its partners. Since its inception in 2004, more than 500 members of IBM’s innovation ecosystem have participated in close to 30 GIO deep dive sessions on topics ranging from the future of healthcare to the business of life. Outcomes have included breakthroughs in intellectual property policy, electronic healthcare records, mega-urban transportation management and leadership development programs. Further information on the GIO is available at

In making ThinkPlace accessible to the public, IBM is inviting a larger population of clients, partners, developers and students worldwide to participate in discussions about social, business and technology issues such as those addressed by the GIO process. In accordance with open collaboration principles, all content submitted during the ThinkPlace Challenge will be available for any participant to use and build upon.

“The best way to improve standards of living in Africa is for businesses to work in conjunction with governments and universities to stimulate local economic development,” said Dr. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Chairman of the NEPAD Business Group. “Programs like the Global Innovation Outlook and this ThinkPlace Challenge can serve as a strong catalyst for change by encouraging a thoughtful and honest discussion about innovation policy, technology and the future.”


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