Dr. Nana Baah Gyan and the Web for Rural Development

Freshly minted dr. Nana flanked by his two paranimphs receives the laudation from supervisor prof. Akkermans.

Freshly minted dr. Nana flanked by his two paranimphs receives the laudation from supervisor prof. Akkermans.

On 5 april 2016, Nana Baah Gyan successfully defended his PhD thesis “The Web, Speech Technologies and Rural Development in West Africa, An ICT4D Approach” in front of the reading committee at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Dr. Nana worked as a PhD researcher mostly in the context of the FP-7 VOICES project and was supervised by prof. Hans Akkermans and dr. Victor de Boer.

Nana investigated the history of speech systems in developing countries. He discussed and developed strategies for requirements harvesting for an instance of an ICT4D project under rural conditions, the results of which led to an actual implementation of voice-based ICT tools for rural farmers in Mali.

frontpage Nana

Nana’s thesis is available online.

His thesis furthermore deals with evaluating the impact of the project on the lives of stakeholders involved as well as the potential such tools and systems hold for future research. The thesis also discusses what ICT4D generally means for education in West Africa and beyond.

You can read more about Nana’s research in his thesis [PDF] or on the http://w4ra.org site.

 

Mouriba logos

RadioMarcheMannetjeFrom 2010 on, I have been making logos for W4RA-related projects, for example for RadioMarche. I have had some request from people to reuse (parts of) the logo before and I have now decided to publish all the logos and the source files under an open license (CC-zero). This basically means I waive any rights I have.

I think this makes sense as I developed these while subsidised with public (EU) money as a side-project. So feel free to reuse them as you wish. If you do, it is nice (but no legal requirement) to..

  1. not use any of the existing logos directly without adaptation for your project/product/company, but adapt it to avoid confusion
  2. let me know if you are using them, or credit me using something like “Adapted from logos designed by Victor de Boer (http://victordeboer.com)

The PNGs and the source files (in SVG, XCF and AI formats) ara available at https://github.com/biktorrr/MouribaLogos

 

Master project Rianne Nieland: Talking to Linked Data

[This post was written by Rianne Nieland. It describes her MSc. project supervised  by myself]

People in developing countries cannot access information on the Web, because they have no Internet access and are often low literate. A solution could be to provide voice-based access to data on the Web by using the GSM network.

afbeeldingIn my master project I have investigated how to make general-purpose data sets efficiently available using voice interfaces for GSM. To achieve this, I have developed two voice interfaces, one for Wikipedia and one for DBpedia. I have made two voice interfaces with two different kinds of input data sources, namely normal web data and Linked Data, to be able to compare them.

To develop the two voice interfaces, I first did requirements elicitation from literature and developed a user interface and conversion algorithms for Wikipedia and DBpedia concepts. With user tests the users evaluated the two voice interfaces, to be able to compare them on speed, error rate and usability.

[Rianne’s thesis presentation slides can be found on slideshare and is embedded below. Her thesis is attached here: Eindversie-Paper-Rianne-Nieland-2057069]

 

African farmers in E-Data & Research magazine

The October edition of the KNAW’s E-Data and Research magazine features an article submitted by Christophe Gueret, Stefan Schlobach and myself on the need for facilitating data sharing in developing regions. Our submission was rewritten into a nice interview-like article, which you can find on page 8 (and copied below). The article is in Dutch.

For more information, visit http://worldwidesemanticweb.org

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VOICES video

As the VOICES project is ending, we wanted to wrap up our results in the form of a nice video. The result shows the three systems (RadioMarche, Foroba Blon and Tabale) that have been deployed and tested in Mali, Africa. The video was shot by people from the project and edited by Pepijn Borgwat from Synergique and myself. There is an English and a French version, both are embedded below.

 

The Web Of Voices (english) and Le Web Par La Voix (francais) from Synergique

 

 

New Scientist article about the VOICES project

This week's cover of New Scientist In this week’s New Scientist, an article written by Hal Hodson about our VOICES project appears. It highlights some of the key concepts and results from the project that focusses on providing voice-based access to information in developing areas. The article is partly based on our Web Science 2013 article. Great to see so much interest in our work!

A new voice-based web system could help, making it easier for illiterate people in Mali and other West African nations to use the internet. The project, sponsored by the European Commission, is called Voices and it has already been used to build an information system for farmers and as a platform for citizen journalism.

Read the article at New Scientist’s site here or you can always get the actual paper version.

ICT 4 Development course final presentations

[crosspost from worldwidesemanticweb.wordpress.com]

This friday, a brand new course at the VU University Amsterdam came to a satisfying close. The ICT 4 Development course (ICT4D) was offered to VUA Computer Science students for the first  year and I feel it was a success. The course, which was a collaboration between the Computer Science department and the Center for International Cooperation of the same university, aimed to teach students how one should go about designing and deploying ICT projects in developing areas.

Student group presenting their XO deployment planTo this end, the students learned about the importance of considering local socio-economic contexts but also got to experience two technologies often used for development projects. The students received a crash course in the Sugar operating system for the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child project and were presented with a tutorial on VoiceXML for developing voice-based applications. Students formed groups and chose either one of these technologies to solve a real-world problen in its development context.

The course ended today with student group presentations. Three groups presented an XO deployment. One of these included an agricultural program in Namibia that involves teaching children about growing local food next to their schools. The XO laptop can assist this education by providing tips for growing the crops. Two other presentations focused on XO deployments in neighbouring countries Iran and Iraq and included mockups and prototypes for XO programs (activities) that assist children both inside and outside school. There is even a good chance that the program in Iraq will actually be deployed and one of the teachers (who happened to be one of the student’s mother) was present at the presentation.

student group presenting their VoiceXML moduleThe fourth group developed an additional voice module for the RadioMarché system currently deployed in Mali, allowing local farmers to call in with their mobile phones when they want to sell produce. A voice menu enables them to tell the system how much of a specific product they have to offer and how much money they want in return.

All in all, this trip around the world showed how much the students have learned. We hope some of the projects will actually lead to real deployments and are looking forward to teaching the course again next year.

Open Tea at CIS-VU

Open Tea at CISToday, the fourth floor of the VU metropolitan building was the scene of the Open Tea, a series of events organised by the Open for Change network. Open for Change organises such an event, open to everyone interested in Open Development a couple of times a year somewhere in the Netherlands.

After meeting members at the OKFest in Helsinki, we proposed to hold an Open Tea event at VU University. Specifically, the Centre for International Cooperation (CIS-VU) was kind enough to host the event.

We got to talk about the API2LOD for Development data. API2LOD is a tool that is under development by Christophe Guéret and myself that allows the creation of a wrapper that exposes any data from any API into five-star linked data. Our first two datasets are related to development: the data from the knowledge base of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) and data from the International Aid Transparancy Initiative (IATI). Through our efforts, we hope to bring more data on development to the Web of Linked Data.

The second VU talk was about the efforts of the W4RA team to bring the Web to people in rural developent areas using voice services. In particular RadioMarché and Foroba Blon.

Pelle Aardema and Rolf Kleef then gave us an update on the status of Open for Change and plans for the future. I am sure that VU Amsterdam’s  Network Institute and CIS-VU can benefit greatly from continuing this collaboration and we hope that we can add our knowledge and experience to the network.

Best Poster Award at ESWC 2012!

Poster thumbnail (click to view PDF)

The ESWC 2012 conference ended with a bang for me and the rest of the W4RA team: We were awarded the Best Poster Award for our poster “Bringing the Web of Data to Developing Countries: Linked Market Data in the Sahel”. You can find the poster abstract here and the poster itself here. This is especially nice for two reasons.

First of all, we spent this year’s VU Semantic Web Outing learning about desiging good posters and afterwards we took this poster as an example. The winning poster is very much a collaborative effort of everybody at the VU Semantic Web groups. Thank you all for your effort.

Secondly, a goal of the poster is to get a community of peers interested in issues and applications of Linked Data for “Warm Countries”. I hope that this prize and the publicity will help realize this.

More information about how you can access the Linked Market data can be found elsewhere on this blog and on the W4RA blog. Want to join our effort and support Linked Data for Development? Contact us or keep an eye on our blog worldwidesemanticweb.wordpress.com.