The University of Nairobi (UoN) is among 16 universities in Africa that will now have access to IBM’s most advanced quantum computing systems and software for teaching and other academic purposes.

The new access – to be granted to UoN and the other universities based on the submission and approval of a valid research proposal – is based on a new partnership between IBM and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

Other scholars set to benefit are from the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) are from Addis Ababa University; University of Ghana; 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.

They 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 j***t 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 Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs.

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

“For Africa to remain competitive for the coming decades we must get the next generation of students quantum ready,” said Dr Solomon Assefa, Vice President, Emerging Market Solutions and Director, IBM Research – Africa.

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“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,” added Vilakazi.

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