VU’s 4th ICT4D symposium: a look back

Yesterday, 18 May 2017, the 4th International ICT4D symposium was held at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.  The event was organized by the W4RA team and supported by VU Network Institute, the Netherlands Research School for Information and Knowledge Systems SIKS, VU Computer Science Department and VU International Office. Invited speakers from Ghana, France and the Netherlands highlighted this year’s theme was “Sustainability and ICT4D”.

Keynote speaker Gayo Diallo from Universite de Bordeaux discussed the possibilities of ICT for African Traditional Medicine (ATM). In his talk, he showed how semantic web technologies can play a role here to connect heterogeneous datasets for analytics and end-user services. Such services would need to be based on voice-interaction and localized technologies. His slides can be found here.

Chris van Aart from 2Coolmonkeys discussed a number of smartphone applications developed in the context of W4RA activities, including Mr. Jiri a tree-counting application. He proved there is a market for such applications in the African context (Slides).

After the break, Francis Dittoh from UDS Ghana discussed issues around sustainbility for a meteo application he is currently developing for Northern-Ghana (slides). Wendelien Tuijp from VU’s CIS then presented multiple perspectives on ICT4D (Slides). The symposium was closed by a video presentation from Aske Robenhagen, showcasing the ongoing work in Nepal around mapping knowledge networks and developing a smartphone application supporting information exchange for local accountability extension workers. More information on that project can be found at

The presentations of the day can be found through the links above. The entire symposium was live-streamed and you can watch it all on youtube or below.

Below is a lost of the approximate starting time of the various speakers in the video

  • 6m19 Dr. Gayo Diallo – Université de Bordeaux (FR): Towards a Digital African Traditional Healthcare using Semantic Web.
  • 56m28 Dr. Chris van Aart – 2CoolMonkeys BV (NL) : Developing Smartphone Apps for African farmers.
  • 1h30m00 break.
  • 1h52m00 Francis Dittoh – University for Development Studies (Ghana): ICT business development in rural Africa.
  • 2h23m00 Wendelien Tuyp – CIS-VU : Sustainable Community Initiatives and African Farmer Innovation.
  • 2h52m00 Aske Robenhagen Network Institute Academy Assistant VU – Building resilient applications for sustainable development. Better video of this can be found at

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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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3rd ICT4D Symposium at VU

[Cross-posted from]
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

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Multitasking Behaviour and Gaze-Following Technology for Workplace Video-Conferencing.

[This post was written by Eveline van Everdingen and describes her M.Sc. project]

Working with multiple monitors is very common at the workplace nowadays. A second monitor can increase work efficiency, structure and a better overview in a job. Even in business video-conferencing, dual monitors are used. Although the purpose of dual monitor use might be clear to the multitasker, this behaviour is not always perceived as positive by their video-conferencing partners.

Gaze direction of the multitasker with the focus on the primary monitor (left), on the dual monitor (middle) or in between two monitors when switching (right).

Results show that multitasking on a dual screen or mobile device is indicated as less polite and acceptable than doing something else on the same screen. Although the multitasker might be involved with the meeting, he or she seems less engaged with the meeting, resulting in negative perceptions.

Effect of technology on politeness of multitasking

Improving the sense of eye-contact might result in a better video-conferencing experience with the multitasker, therefore a gaze-following tool with two webcams is designed (code available at ). When the multitasker switches to the dual screen, another webcam will catch the frontal view of the multitasker. Indeed, participants indicate the multitasking behaviour as being more polite and acceptable with the dynamic view of the multitasker. The sense of eye-contact is not significantly more positive rated with this experimental design.

These results show that gaze-following webcam technology can be successful to improve collaboration in dual-monitor multitasking.

For more information, read Eveline’s thesis [pdf] or visit the project’s figshare page.

Example of a video presented to the experiment participants.

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The Verrijkt Koninkrijk Hackathon Report

On Friday, March 8th, we organized a Verrijkt Koninkrijk Linked Data Hackathon at the Intertain Lab of VU Amsterdam. The event was co-sponsored by the Network Institute. The goal of the hackathon was to allow third party developers to produce (ideas for) innovative applications beyond the Verrijkt Koninkrijk core research questions. We especially encouraged the use of the Linked Data produced in the project.


As organizers, we are very happy with the produced prototypes. The benefits are following:

  • The produced applications show the (unexpected) reusability of the VK (Linked) Open Data. The applications produced or suggested give new browsing opportunities, links to other datasets or show how the data can be used in a completely novel context.The hackathon revealed that indeed the data is usable for external developers using the documentation provided. Some bugs were found, some of which could be fixed during the hackathon.
  • Important concepts around data quality were articulated by the users. Although it falls outside of the scope of this project, subsequent curation of the dat should involve considering ways of allowing experts or amateurs to correct errors in the data.
  •  The VK project data is made known to researchers and developers from related projects, for example that of Agora or BiographyNed. We expect that this ensures future use of the data by related projects.

We here present short descriptions of what the six hacker teams cooked up. Two prize winners were announced by the jury, for “best use of data” and “coolest app” respectively. The jury consisted of Kees Ribbens and Edwin Klijn from NIOD, Serge ter Braake and Victor de Boer from VU. More photos of the event can be seen at



Niels used the data from the Named Entity index to create a history browser which allows the user to browse information about WWII on basis of persons, locations, organisations, etc. (the NER classes). For this he reused the Agora Touch demonstrator. When a class is chosen a list of entities is shown with images which are resolved through the alignment with DBpedia. Niels used the LDtogo framework to map the selected data on the API interface of the Agora demo.


This group set out to to recreate the network of important people of the Netherlands during WWII and their quotes in fake Facebook profiles, trying to imitate the reality of their time. We feed automatically these streams with the contents of the VK datasets: little Cliopatria and Python snippets retrieve data from SPARQL endpoints, resolve the structured XML texts, extract the quotes and expose them using the Facebook Graph API. View the project on GitHub and see the live demo at

image031Lourens aligned the VK data with that of Agora Rijksmuseumusing the Amalgame alignment tool. This is used to link VK data to RM images using the Rijksmuseum API via (results shown here (pdf)) He furthermore started to use the Verrijkt Koninkrijk data to add links to VK from within our AGORA demo that is an event centered browser for the Rijksmuseum content. Very rough results show a AGORA demo entry for Duitsland.

image028The application of Chris van Aart shows how the monument data from Vier en Vijf Mei can be browsed using the Cube browser on IOS. THis allows for multi-faceted browsing between Dutch war monuments. By flipping the screen, one can actually look at the RDF data!

image029Michiel built a web map application showing the liberation of Nijmegen in 1944. 1940s data and current maps scan be superimposed over eachother therefore showing for example what part of the city was damaged during the liberation. Further additions include 17,19 and 20th Century maps. A demo can be seen at An attempt was made to include Vier en Vijf Mei monument data in this dataset

image018Willem presented the idea to visualise the VK data using the InContext RDF visualizer for enriched publications. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Willem did not succeed in getting everything up and running.  [screencast]




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VU Computer Science videos

Screenshot of nine videos (click to go to media page)

A while ago, the VU Computer Science commissioned the production of ten videos in which VU computer scientists explain their research. Pepijn Borgwat and his friends at Synergique (with a little from myself) made these ten videos, each clocking in at around 2 minutes. The videos will be used for marketing and educational purposes or even for dissemination of scientific results.

The videos are available in Dutch and English at the VUScience Youtube channel and at Pepijn’s Vimeo page. They are embedded below.

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