“As a continent and developing world, Africans have missed out on the first, second and third revolutions, which is why we must make sure we don’t miss out on the 4IR,” he said, adding that Wits University is determined to lead the way on the current technological wave.
“We cannot be passive players (we) must play a role in knowledge production, ensuring we become drivers, not passengers,” he said.
As the first African partner on the IBM Quantum Computing (IBM Q) Network, Vilakazi told University World News that Wits plans to become the focal research hub for academics across South Africa and for the 16 universities belonging to the African Research Universities Alliance (Arua).
Scholars from Wits and Arua institutions will be able to conduct research using a 20-qubit IBM Q quantum computer with advanced quantum computing systems and software for teaching quantum information science and exploring early applications.
The latest collaboration between Wits and IBM Research raises to a new level a partnership forged in 2016, when IBM opened its second lab in Africa at the university’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct.
“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 Vilakazi.
He said putting resources into the study of quantum technologies can help leverage the next level of discovery research to tackle challenging problems.
Technologies such as enhanced medical imaging, efficient light harvesting materials (clean energy) and secure optical communication networks (cybersecurity) have led to the development of exponentially faster computers (quantum computers) which are integrated with technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and are considered a core security component of devices that will drive the 4IR, he said.
Researchers at Wits will also use quantum computing and machine learning in cosmology and molecular biology, with a specific focus on HIV drug discovery, echoing Vilakazi’s pledge to use technology to address societal challenges.
The Sunday Independent