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David McQueeney, Vice President, Technical Strategy and Worldwide Operations, IBM

David McQueeney, Vice President, Technical Strategy and Worldwide Operations, IBM

By David McQueeney

Five years ago, IBM launched its Smarter Planet initiative, describing the era in which we currently live and operate in as the “Era of Smart,” one marked by forward-thinking leaders in business, government and society capitalizing on smarter systems to achieve economic growth, operational efficiency and sustainable development.

Since 2008, we have moved beyond the world of programmable systems to our first steps in cognitive systems – systems that exploit large data sources and can “learn.” Our Watson system may highlight this new way of operating best. For the first time, a computer has the ability to consult a broad range of human language resources, learn from historical training data, and answer surprisingly complex questions. We are forced to rethink how computers can work with humans on complex tasks, by showing the world a system that is able to respond based on what it ‘knows’ –  facts and information and training – rather than simply what words match in a simple search.

(Third in a series in support of Big Data Week.)

The Era of Smart helps to drive economic growth and today IBM brought that message to Congress in a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Science Committee’s Research and Technology subcommittees.

As Big Data and analytics continue to touch every single industry – from energy and healthcare to transportation and banking – it’s critical that the public and private sectors work together to ensure we are leveraging these new technologies to transform society and support economic competitiveness.

Data created from the beginning of time up until 2003 is comparable to the amount of data that will be created in just two days during 2013. In fact, it is estimated that by 2015, 2 million IT jobs will be created in the U.S. to help tackle the slew of data and transform it into actionable information. As the world continues to generate more and more structured and unstructured data, the need for skilled workers who can apply analytics to Big Data will continue to grow exponentially.

At the hearing, I stressed the importance of creating a new workforce, which includes support for skills development, as well as increased research in system design and software development.

Here at IBM, we’ve witnessed firsthand the power and necessity behind this new imperative for skills development and training. The IBM Academic Initiative, a program designed to supply institutions with essential training software and hardware, has added 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members to its program in just the past seven years. We now have in place more than 300 academic partnerships with some of the nation’s leading institutions.

Last month, IBM announced a partnership with the City of Baton Rouge and LouisianaStateUniversity. Over the next 10 years, we will work with LSU academics to develop a physical center and curriculum that will train computer science students in the application of analytics. The result is a projected 800 new jobs created in the Baton Rouge area to supply the demand for this smarter workforce.

And just today, IBM announced a new academic partnership with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to offer a graduate degree program beginning in the 2013 Fall semester. The new Master of Science in Business Analytics program is designed to develop data application and analytic skills to the future workforce.

Yet, more can – and should – be done. IBM supports legislation that will drive an agenda around skills and research, like the Department of Energy’s High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004. The legislation would improve high-end computing and research, as well as strengthen government and industry partnerships. We also support the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act and the Federal Work Study Program, to help students master the Big Data and analytic skills needed to compete in the global marketplace.

A stronger and smarter workforce equipped with advanced computing skills will have the tools to seize the future. With data now at all of our fingertips, we have the ability to create a planet that is the best it can be, and together with our government partners, we can continue to build a smarter planet.

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