Kasadaka 1.0

[This post is based on Andre Baart’s B.Sc. thesis. The text is mostly written by him]

Generic overview of Kasadaka
Generic overview of Kasadaka

In developing (rural) communities, the adoption of mobile phones is widespread. This allows information to be offered to these communities through voice-based services. This research explores the possibilities of creating a flexible framework (Kasadaka) for hosting voice services in rural communities. The context of the developing world poses special requirements, which have been taken into account in this research. The framework creates a voice service that incorporates dynamic data from a data store. The framework allows for a low-effort adaptation to new and changing use cases. The service is hosted on cheap, low-powered hardware and is connected to the local GSM network through a dongle. We validated the working and flexibility of the framework by adapting it to a new use case. Setting up this new voice server was possible in less than one hour, proving that it is suitable for rapid prototyping. This framework enables further research into the effects and possibilities of hosting voice based information services in the developing world. The image below shows the different components and the dataflow between these components when a call is made. Read more in Andre Baart‘s thesis (pdf).

All information on how to get started with Kasadaka can be found on the project’s GitHub page: https://github.com/abaart/KasaDaka 


The different components and dataflow
The different components and dataflow (see below)

Text in italics only takes place when setting up the call.

  1. Asterisk receives the call from the GSM dongle, answers the call, and connects it to VXI.
    Asterisk receives the user’s input and forwards it to VXI.
  2. VXI requests the configured VoiceXML document from Apache.
    VXI requests the configured VoiceXML document from Apache. Together with the request, it sends the user input.
  3. Apache runs the Python program (based on Flask), in which data from the triple store has to be read or written. Python sends the SPARQL query to ClioPatria.
  4. ClioPatria runs the query on the data present, and sends the result of the query back to the Python program.
  5. Python renders the VoiceXML template. The dynamic data is now inserted in the VoiceXML document, and it is sent back to VXI.
  6. VXI starts interpreting the VoiceXML document. In the document there are references to audio files. It sends requests to Apache for the referenced files.
  7. Apache sends a request for the file to the file system.
  8. The file is read from the file system.
  9. Apache responds with the requested audio files.
  10. VXI puts all the audio files in the correct order and plays them back sequentially, sending the audio to the GSM dongle.

This cycle repeats until the call is terminated.


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Inviting submissions to Downscale2016

The Fourth International Workshop on Downscaling the (Semantic) Web (Downscale2016) will be co-located with the 4th International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S). The workshop will be Aug 29 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Downscale2016 follows success of previous Downscale workshops and will mostly focus on appropriate infrastructures. Instead of using large-scale centralised approaches to data management we look at breaking data-centric architectures into smaller components that consume less electricity, be cheaper to own, and more flexible than a “big server” while still mimicking, as a swarm, the features one such big server would provide. As such, the workshop matches ICT for Development (ICT4D) goals with ICT for Solutions (ICT4S) and we expect that the dialogue between ICT4S, Semantic Web and ICT4D researchers and practitioners will further each of the research fields.

We are currenty inviting both short papers (6 pages) or abstracts (2 pages) describing current or late­breaking research in ICT4D. These papers will undergo a light ­review procedure. For more information, visit the workshop web page.

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2nd TMT Workshop in Bamako

2016-05-10 13.14.35.jpg
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.

2016-05-09 09.37.40
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.




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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

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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