Africa Embraces Linux, Cloud through IBM Client for Smart Work

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - 29 Oct 2009: Organizations of all types from business, government, and academic to philanthropic across the emerging markets of Africa are rapidly adopting Linux and cloud computing services just one month after a package, the IBM Client for Smart Work (, was launched in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

The IBM Client for Smart Work, the first cloud and Linux-based software package offered by IBM and Canonical, can be installed on netbooks and other thin client devices or even existing personal computers, eliminating the need for new hardware.  By comparison, it could cost companies up to $2,000 per seat to migrate using other proprietary software, according to some market estimates, much of it in higher hardware requirements.

"The ability to make personal computing lightweight, inexpensive and flexible on an open base is a key to bypassing the proprietary legacies of established markets and to bridging the digital divide in Africa," said IBM sub- Saharan CTO, Clifford Foster. "All types of organizations, whether business, government, academic or philanthropic, are adopting this new computing model," he adds.

The IBM Client for Smart Work has enabled businesses that couldn't afford traditional PCs for all employees to now use any type of device and low-cost software allowing all workers to work smarter anywhere using a variety of devices, regardless of the level of communications infrastructure.  The solution includes open standards-based email, word processing, spreadsheets, unified communication, social networking and other software for any laptop, netbook, or a variety of mobile devices. It runs on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux operating system, and provides the option to deliver collaboration through the Web in a cloud service model.  This software bundle can also be extended to virtualised workspaces using VERDE from Virtual Bridges, which is available locally through business partners and voice-based collaboration pilots through IBM Research. IBM estimates that it delivers up to 50 percent savings per seat versus other propriety software bundles.

"IBM Client for Smart Work allows us to deliver cost-effective solutions for our customers," said Hilton Theunissen, Managing Director of Inkululeko, an information technology (IT) service provider with a base of education clients in South Africa.    "Our open source expertise based on active participation in a variety of South African FOSS projects such as tuXlabs, Go-opensource, openicdl,, digital doorway,and African Commons, when combined with the IBM Client for Smart Work's collaboration and VERDE virtual Linux desktop extensions, is the right choice for South African businesses."

Pretoria-based mySolutions, an IT consulting firm with hundreds of customers and business partners throughout Africa delivering all types of desktop and infrastructure solutions, sees the IBM Client for Smart Work as the right idea at the right time.

"The opportunity for the open desktop is now," said CEO Siggi Meyer of Pretoria-based mySolutions. "Combining Linux-based productivity tools and client middleware with cloud-based online collaboration services from into one, easy-to-use package is the silver bullet the world has been waiting for to be saved from the costly licensing lock-up of Microsoft. This gets even better given the choice of using appliance and on-premise options as required."

Barry Dwolatzky, Director of the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) and Professor of Software Engineering at Wits University stated: “I find the initiative announced by IBM and Mark Shuttleworth’s company, Canonical, really interesting. While much of the publicity around the announcement has focused on the provision of low-cost desktop software, I would rather focus on something else.”    He said, “It's my hope that initiatives like this will lead to a substantial growth in the number of businesses and individuals who have access to computers. This will increase the demand for software applications that meet Africa’s own needs and solve our own problems.  My interest is in encouraging the growth of the software development sector in South Africa and Africa. A growing indigenous software industry could create many jobs in the knowledge economy and would benefit Africa’s development.”

Kevin Wing, General Manager for Facilities of Metcash Africa has already made the transition to the IBM Client for Smart Work.

"Switching to a Linux desktop with Lotus software has allowed us to save money while gaining greater control and peace of mind with our desktops.”    Wing added that viruses, hacks, crashes and paying for excessive license fees are things of the past.  “Now we just worry about getting our work done; not whether our software will work for us," he said.

Willem van Biljon, IT Manager, CN Business Furniture said that "Working in the cloud via LotusLive means all the collaboration resources needed are always accessible regardless of the supporting infrastructure since it is available through a simple Web browser connection."

The same capabilities appealed to the Robert Robinson Taylor Network (RRTN), a non-profit educational foundation comprised of a global network of partners that adopted the IBM Client for Smart Work.  It's mission is connecting youth and professionals to increase the number of under-represented populations in architecture, science, technology, and engineering fields, while increasing the number of technology entrepreneurs and companies.   

RRTN is partnering with IBM, MIT and region-specific partners such as African Technology Forum (ATF), MIT Africa Information Technology Initiative (AITI), Ghana Telecom University College to build  venture incubator labs and technology centers.  These centers will be located at universities, schools, and community centers. RRTN is using IBM Client for Smart Work coupled with the IBM Lotus Foundations appliance server to connect youth in Africa to youth, professionals, and universities around the world, especially in the Caribbean and US.  The goal is to open the door of economic opportunity afforded by education, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
"Like black inventors, scientists, and entrepreneurs before them, this new generation of youth will be given the opportunity to invent a new tomorrow and participate equally in our global economy for a Smarter Planet," said  Darian Hendricks, president and CEO, RRTN. "Using open source technologies connected to a global, online community through LotusLive, RRTN provides the technology, information and expertise to spread entrepreneurship in professional, science, engineering and technology fields."

This package supports IBM's larger Smart Work initiative ( announced in September and designed to help companies become more efficient by better connecting their workers and business processes. The new IBM package contains collaboration capabilities that can be embedded in a company's business processes to increase productivity and lower costs.

To achieve this level of connectivity between collaboration and business processes, companies can opt for the IBM Business Process Modeling tool to identify key role-to-role interactions in the organization that can benefit from collaboration and can embed the relevant collaboration capabilities in those processes.   This will allow people to easily locate the best experts and content using any device (netbook/thin hardware client/mobile device/desktop).   The company benefits from contextual insight. expertise and content delivered to those who need it exactly when they need it.    It improves business process efficiency and quality, reduces human latency and drives better business results.

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