IBM to build out computing network for Bharti Airtel in Africa

IBM has signed a "sweeping 10-year collaboration" agreement with Bharti Airtel to build and manage the computer network needed to expand its mobile communications network into 16 countries on the African continent, the company announced today.

The company's IT buildout will incorporate Bharti's separate mobile environments within those 16 countries into a single integrated system.

"Providing communications in Africa and emerging markets is about much more than texting or making phone calls," said IBM Chairman and CEO Samuel J. Palmisano during a conference call from Nairobi. "There will be a major impact ... on communications technology in African countries."

IBM already has operations in 12 African countries and is represented in other countries on the continent through business partners. "We have invested $300 million over the past 5 years, we have created computing centers... we have 2 African innovation centers in place and 1 supercomputing facility in Africa," said Palmisano. The company has also pledged to create programs that foster the creation of technology skills in Africa.

Bharti plans to open three service delivery centers next year.

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