The University of the Witwatersrand and IBM have formed a partnership to bring quantum computing to Africa as part of the US technology giant’s efforts to expand the technology around the world.
Wits will be the first African partner on the IBM Q Network, with academics across the continent set to use the technology for research purposes.
The development is the latest outcome of the partnership between Wits and IBM, which started in 2016 when IBM opened its second lab in Africa at the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
“Expanding 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 for research and postgraduate affairs Prof Zeblon Vilakazi.
The IBM Q Network is a community of Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, academic institutions and research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science.
Wits researchers will investigate the use of quantum computing and machine learning in the fields of cosmology and molecular biology with a specific focus on HIV drug discovery.
The teams will also jointly study quantum teleportation, a field pioneered by IBM fellow Charles Bennett.
‘Beyond the reach’
“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 said in a statement. 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.
Scholars from 16 universities from nine countries across Africa – including the University of Cape Town, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Pretoria, Rhodes University, the University of Stellenbosch and Wits in South Africa – 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 of the technology.
To gain access to the quantum cloud service, scholars must submit quality research proposals to a scientific committee of Wits and IBM experts for approval.
To promote skills development, IBM Q will host an invitation-only Qiskit Camp in South Africa in December for 200 quantum researchers and computer scientists. – © 2019 NewsCentral Media