2nd TMT Workshop in Bamako

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Kasadaka as presented by AOPP

From 7-9 May 2016, the second TMT-AOPP workshop was held in Bamako, Mali. This workshop was held in the context of the Tailor Made Training project that VU Amsterdam participates in together with the Malinese farmer organization Association des Organisations Professionnelles Paysannes (AOPP).

During the workshop, which was attended by around 25 AOPP members from all over Mali, we followed up on the results of a previous workshop in 2015, where we co-developed a number of use cases around improving the lives of rural farmers in Mali. Specifically, we developed two prototypes services accessible using simple mobile phones:

  1. An online marketplace for seeds. Farmers can call in to the system to place offerings of seeds or browse current offers of seeds of various quality levels in a specific region.
  2. A chicken vaccination service. For this service, an extension worker can register newly born chickens in the system. The system keeps an administration of when farmers need to vaccinate their chickens against specific diseases. The system then calls the farmer and plays a reminder message in his/her language.

2016-05-08 12.03.55.jpgThese services were developed on Kasadaka, the cheap and low-resource rapid-prototyping platform for knowledge-rich and voice-accessible services. During the workshop we were able to further test the Kasadaka in the field. A field trip to local farmers and a milk cooperation in nearby Ouelessebougou gave us further context and information in how these services can support locals (see also the video embedded below). Chris van Aart from 2coolmonkeys demonstrated his progress on the Senepedia wiki and two Android applications that allow farmers and organizers to use geo-services to count cows, trees or other objects in the field.

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Chris van Aart shows his apps

In addition to these two services, we also presented seven services on the Kasadaka, developed by students of the VUA ICT4D M.Sc. course. These included a weather information service, two vetirenary services, general-purpose knowledge sharing platforms, farmer alert services and a milk market. These services were all very well received and allowed the workshop participants to really see the full potential of voice-enabled information services.

The presentation below shows more information, my personal highlights from the workshop (hence the title) as well as feedback received on the seven student projects.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAoXpvkdx5w

 

 

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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.

 

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A look back at the 3rd VU ICT4D symposium

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VU Rector Prof. Subramaniam opens the symposium

On 6 April 2016, the Third International Symposium “Perspectives on ICT for Development (ICT4D)” was hosted by the VU Network Institute, the Netherlands Research School for Information and Knowledge Systems SIKS, the Computer Science Department and VU International Office. This year’s theme was “Community Service & Education”. A great team of invited speakers from India, Ghana, South-Africa and the Netherlands discussed the merits, challenges and research agendas for ICTs for Development, presenting case studies from various contexts: rural development, health, and education.

2016-04-06 10.39.25The symposium showed different technical solutions, including mobile technologies and small and cheap hardware to cope with local contexts in developing countries. Different speakers also discussed bottom-up methodologies designed for the local context to discover and co-develop interesting ICT solutions and services.

You can watch the entire event through the recorded livestream as presented below. Speakers presented in blocks of 2 around a single topic or location and engaged in discussion after the second speaker. We here present a list of speakers, their timestamp in the recording (including a direct link) as well as PDF slides for their presentations (all rights remain with the original authors).

0.00 Welcome by Symposium Chairs Victor de Boer and Anna Bon (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) [Slides: Victor Introduction]

0.00.40 Opening address by the VU Rector Prof. Dr. Vinod Subramaniam

0.06.40 VU-Informatics/ICT4D: Gossa Lô & Romy Blankendaal (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)  [Slides: Gossa Lo Romy Blankendaal]
0.24.39 VU-Informatics/ICT4D: Dr. Stefan Schlobach (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)  [Slides: Stefan Schlobach]

1.18.52 Ghana: Prof. Dr. Saa Dittoh (University for Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana)  [Slides: Saa_Dittoh]
1.39.46 Ghana: Dr. Nana Baah Gyan (Accra, Ghana)  [Slides: Nana_Baah_Gyan]

2.05.59 India: Prof. Dr. Maneesha Ramesh (Amrita University, India)  [No slides available]
2.32.16 India: Prof. Dr. Jacqueline Broerse (Director Athena Institute VU)  [Slides: Jacqueline_Broerse]

3.49.48 Water and Data: Frank Annor (TU Delft / TAHMO)  [No slides available]
4.10.42 Water and Data: Annabelle Poelert (AKVO, Amsterdam)  [Slides: Annabelle Poelert]

4.51.40 South-Africa: Prof. Dr. Mmantsae Moche Diale (University of Pretoria, South-Africa)  [Slides: Mmantsae Diale]
5.18.10 South-Africa: Prof. Dr. André Ran (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)  [Slides: Andre_Ran]

5.48.30 Wrap up by Symposium Chairs 

 

 

 

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ICT Open 2016

Below you find some impressions from ICT.Open 2016. At this very nice event members from the Web and Media group and VU master students presented their ICT research.

The images show me presenting the Observe project’s achievements so far. Oana Inel presenting the DIVE demo, Anca and Oana accepting the SIKS poster award, Gossa Lo presenting Kasadaka to demo jury members, three Web and Media posters and a nice presenation from Google on AlphaGo.

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3rd ICT4D Symposium at VU

[Cross-posted from http://w4ra.org]
On 6 April 2016, the Third International Symposium “Perspectives on ICT for Development (ICT4D)” will be hosted by the VU Network Institute, the Netherlands Research School for Information and Knowledge Systems SIKS, the Computer Science Department and VU International Office. This year’s theme is “Community Service & Education”. Invited speakers from India, Ghana, South-Africa and the Netherlands will highlight the theme, presenting case studies from various contexts: rural development, health, and education.ict4dposter2016_wide.png

@VU Tuinzaal, W&N building, (Ground floor, between S/T/U corridors) De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Symposium chairs: Dr. Victor de Boer (VU/FEW/INF) & Drs. Anna Bon (VU International Office/CIS). For more information and registration (free), visit http://w4ra.org/

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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

 

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Inspiring TMT Workshop in Bamako

From 9-13 October, the W4RA team visited Bamako in Mali for the Nuffic-funded Tailor Made Training (TMT) workshop at the offices of AOPP (Association des organisations professionnelles paysannes). This association brings together agricultural innovators in the country. The attendees are very interested in using ICTs to improve communication and knowledge sharing among their members.

Kasadaka in Bamako
Kasadaka in Bamako. This version has a built-in touch screen.

Digivet demonstration
Digivet demonstration. Alou Dolo from local IT club Yeleman is helping us.

During the four-day workshop, we demonstrated a number of applications developed in the context of our W4RA research, including the VOICES demonstrators, Mr Jiri and the Kasadaka voice platform which was based on a Raspberry Pi. We also showed the DigiVet application developed by Gossa Lo. In a number of breakout sessiosn, the AOPP members then developed a number of new use cases. These included an information system for seed information. In various locations in Mali, farmers develop and enrich seeds (sesame, sorghum, etc.) and sell these to other farmers. These seeds are adapted to fit the local soil and climate. To improve the effectiveness of this seed information, better sharing of this information is required. Other ideas included a veterinarian service and a marketplace application.

Field trip: visiting the champs ecole
Field trip: visiting the champs ecole. We are standing inbetween sesame plants.

To deepen our understanding of the use cases and the local context, we visited a “Champs Ecole” (testing field) where new types of sesame and sorghum plants and new planting strategies were monitored. We also visited an organisation “Femmes en action” who organize trainings for local women on how to fabricate products out of raw plant materials, such as Baobab-bonbons and the always-delicious Bissap (Hibiscus lemonade). The head of the group, Fatim, was a very inspiring lady and she also showed us tubs full of fish that could be farmed in town residencies. We even got to take home some of the produced dried fish flakes.

Discussing the use casesa
Discussing the use cases

The final day we demonstrated a number of applications. Specifically, we showed a very early prototype of a voice-accessible seed market, as was explored in the workshop. For this, we used Kasadaka as the rapid-prototyping platform. It fulfilled its purpose quite well as the farmers were triggered by this demonstration ad provided valuable feedback and questions to further specify the use case and requirements. Of course, we are still running into some issues, specifically with regestering key presses (DTMF) on the Malian network. We also showed Senepedia.org, a wiki for agriculture (sene, in the Bambara language). In the next months, the AOPP staff will experiment with this wiki to register and share information that concerns their members.

All in all, this was a very successful and inspiring meetup and we are looking forward to going back to Mali in the beginning of next year with new prototypes and demonstrations.

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2nd VU ICT4D symposium “Data for Development”

2015-05-22 11.39.40Today, the second international VU symposium in ICT for Development was held. As last year, the workshop was a great success, with an international host of speakers and a variety of attendees (around 80 people joined).This year’s symposium we looked at the opportunities and challenges for “Data for Development” from many angles. In his keynote speech, Gayo Diallo from Unversite de Bordeaux elaborated on how data from mobile telephony providers was used to identify issues with access to health care in Senegal. Marije Geldof discussed the success and difficulties in using mobile data services for assisting health workers in Malawi.2015-05-22 10.06.40 After these longer presentations, a series of duo-presentations were held. In the first the concept of upscaling and downscaling (big) data sharing solutions was discussed (Hans Akkermans and Christophe Gueret). In the second duo-presentation we heard from two Amsterdam-based organizations on the use of Open Data for aid transparency (Rolf Kleef) and how to connect data from different mobile projects (Karl Lundfall). The final duo-presentation featured Cheah Waishiang on how to connect to local communities using ICT in Malaysia and Chris van Aart who described the approach of the App-developer. Myrthe van der Wekken and Gossa Lo presented their research on Knowledge Sharing for the Rural Poor through a quick pitch and two very nice posters (see also their reports 1 and 2) .2015-05-22 11.52.14 All in all, the symposium showed that in every stage of the data value chain, there is progress being made in the development context. However, there are enormous challenges to be overcome at each stage as well. Enough to work on for a next installment of this yearly symposium series. You can watch the entire symposium through the embedded video below (3 hrs). Below the video you can see the list of speakers and the different timestamps in the video when their talk starts (clicking on the link will open in new window). [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7JO_R9-x6k]

  • Gayo Diallo – Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, FR “Mobile Data in Senegal, a Health Decision Enabler” (6.58)
  • Marije Geldof – ICT4D professional The Hague, NL “‘Mobile health and the role of data in Malawi’” (45.05)
  • Hans Akkermans – The Network Institute, VU Amsterdam, NL, “Community-centric Data Services (1.12.00) for Social & Economic Development in Africa”
  • Christophe Guéret – DANS-KNAW The Hague, NL “Downscaling the (Semantic) Web: Decentralized Linked Open Data for World Citizens” (1.22.40)
  • Rolf Kleef – Open for Change, NL “Open Data for Development Agencies” (2.04.30)
  • Karl Lundfall – Text2Change, NL “Integration of Data Sources for Development” (2.15.18)
  •  Cheah Waishiang – Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia “Empowering & knowledge through digital storytelling in Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia” (2.28.26)
  •  Chris van Aart – 2CoolMonkeys, Utrecht, NL “Mr. Meteo, Weather forecasts for African farmers” (2.41.30)

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Gossa and Myrthe in Ghana – part 2

[Crosspost from w4ra.org]

Gossa and Myrthe, students from VU University Amsterdam are currently in Northern Ghana,  doing fieldwork for the  interdisciplinary ICT4D research project “Knowledge Sharing for the Rural Poor. This is the second part of their trip report, read the first part here

Myrthes last blog before leaving Ghana, March 23 2015

“Last week I kept myself occupied with conducting two one on one interviews and two group discussions. On Saturday 14th of March I made an appointment for a focus group discussions for which I developed a specific topic guide aiming to discover if there could be more nuance added to the data I’ve collected thus far from the one on one interviews.

Gossa and Myrthe in Ghana

Anthony Dittoh (the father of my translator Docras and brother of professor Saa Dittoh) helped me to organize the meeting. At least 20 people would gather underneath the large mango tree across the main road. The meeting would start at 09:00 and Docras en I left the house on that time. Because, this is Africa and here they have the time instead of the clock…. A little bit nervous we went on our way to the market. Unfortunately there were only two farmers present. The rest had to go to a funeral, to the market, had to feed their livestock and so on. Disappointed we went on our way home again.

Monday 09:00 was the second attempt to get the first focus group discussion of the ground. We went on our way to the market again. This time we needed to wait again before we headed towards the mango tree. We waited in the small shop of Docras’ second mother (first wife of Anthony Dittoh). When the clock reached 10:00 we decided to go and have a look what was going on. Only seven people were sitting under the tree and I started to feel quite frustrated. We decided to stay and hoped for more to come. Eventually at 11:15 there were 25 people present and we had a fruitful discussion together.

Tuesday I was supposed to have my second group discussions at the house of an important farmer called Fuzeni. However, Saa Dittoh called and asked me if I wanted to join on a fieldtrip with the team of the Water Land and Eco System project. Docras told me I should go and she would send her uncle to Fuzeni’s house in order to reschedule the meeting for thursday. So, at 08:30 I needed to be ready at the junction. A 40 minute walk from our house and Saa would pick me up there. Eventually they picked me up at 09:10 and went on our way. This trip would mainly be used for short stops in the target areas of their project. I didn’t get the chance to gather data for my own research, but it was interesting to see some other part of the Upper East besides Bolgatanga or Zanlerigu village.

Wednesday I had an interview with two women from the market. However, one cancelled because her money had just been stolen and she was quite upset. I did one interview and could not get a replacement for the cancelled interview.

Thursday Docras and I went to the farm of Fuzeni. It was a 45 minute walk from our house. Sometimes I really miss having the freedom to use any transport I want, but on the other hand I also consider it as some good early morning exercise. At 09:10 we arrived and already 30 persons were sitting under the large Mango tree. Many more were still to come and at the end we were with over a hundred people. It was a lively and lovely gathering. Noticable were the convincing majority of women. An explanation was that women take meetings more serious, another said that it was because men can marry more women and a final explanation was that men died sooner than women. Well, I still have my doubts. Maybe it is a combination of all, but that should be part of another type of research.

Friday I interviewed a farmer who was into livestock rearing and selling. He struggled most with up-scaling hisbusiness. He didn’t had enough knowledge on how to farm pigs on a large scale and didn’t have the tools or capital in order to manage a large scale farm. He blamed the government mostly for this. They were the ones who supposed to help farmers who wanted to get into serieos agricultural businesses. Disappointed he added that most of the government officials only wear titles, but execute nothing.

The weekend I spent on doing domestic obligations, relaxing, homework and playing and hanging out with the Dittoh family. Sunday I went with them to their local church. This was way more fun than the church in Bolgatanga city I went to last time. I even had the chance to be a witness of some real life exorcism practices. The people here believe that a lot of problems, and that includes also health problems, are caused by being possessed by evil spirits or demons and can be solved by accepting Jesus Christ as your one and only Savior and pray a lot in addition.

For the upcoming week I will keep myself mainly occupied with preparing my departure back to Holland, travelling, getting back home and continue with data analysis. I will get in touch with my dear colleague Awa Gossa Lô and will see her as soon as possible in order to work further on our ICT4D hardware tool.

This week a learned that time is not of the essence here in Africa. I knew this beforehand, but it is always different if you experience it yourself in real life. On the one hand it could give you a lot of relaxation and freedom, but if you are a control freak like me who loves time and most important being on time it could also cause a lot of stress. This week I learned to let go the essence of time once in a while.

Well this will be my last report from Ghana. Next time you will hear from Awa and me again, but this time we will be in our lovely, cold, beautiful and well organized Holland again. Ghana and especially Zanlerigu village: It was a joy and a valuable life lesson for me being there. Thank you very much for all the information you were willing to share and the lessons you have taught me.”

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A Sugar Activity for Subsistence Farmers

[reblogged from http://worldwidesemanticweb.org/2015/03/06/a-sugar-activity-for-subsistence-farmers/ This post is written by Tom Jansen]

Screenshot of the Sugar activity (Tom Jansen)
Screenshot of the Sugar activity (Tom Jansen)

Subsistence farming or agriculture is a form of farming where farmers mainly focus on growing enough food to be self-sufficient. Especially in African countries, where people are very dependent of own-grown food, this type of farming is very common. Subsistence farming, however, in these countries has so much to gain and has so much potential. Improving the farming skills of the farmers could make significant contributions to the reduction of hunger. Unfortunately, farmers often haven’t had enough agricultural education to optimally grow their own food. To help these farmers, I developed an activity that will improve their farming skills. The application helps the farmers to identify diseases of their crops and animals and will present them ways to manage the diseases and prevent them in the future. Giving them an opportunity to manage diseases of their crops and livestock means giving them an opportunity to improve their harvest. The opportunity of a bigger harvest could be a substantial contribution to a better way of living for farmers in (a.o) West Africa.

The activity is Sugar based and is therefore perfectly suitable for the XO-Laptops that are commonly used in West Africa. The activity revolves around a database with a lot of information about diseases of crops and livestock. When the farmer opens the activity, he will be led through two menus with possibilities. When the right crop or livestock is selected, a list with diseases will be shown containing identification possibilites for a particular diseases. When the farmer notices that one description of the disease is very similar to what is happening to his crops or livestock, he clicks on the disease. When the choice is made another window pops up showing the information the farmer needs to manage and prevent the disease.

Right now it is only possible to access the database and read the information inside the database. What would improve the activity is a way where farmers can access the database and not only read, but also change and add information from the database. This way the information and thus the quality of the activity could be improved without any help from the outside.

The activity can be found on the following page (containing all the code): https://github.com/WorldWideSemanticWeb/farming-activity

Read the full report here: Helping Subsistence Farmers in West Africa

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