Posts Tagged ‘open innovation’

RadioMarche ́: Distributed Voice- and Web-interfaced Market Information Systems under Rural Conditions

February 20, 2012

The World Wide Web connects millions of people and organizations, empowering them to socialize, express opinion, and co-create at a scale and speed never seen before. It was not a carefully top-down planning, but a set of elementary internet technologies designed for de-centralized use that allowed for a Web with such a dramatic level of complexity and scale to emerge in less than two decades. Examples of such technologies are W3C-recommended open standards such as HTTP, HTML or RDF. By carefully excluding features that are not universally useful these technologies became easily adopted on a massive scale and gave the Web a generative character, that is, the capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from a broad and varied audience [Zittrain, 2009].

Implementation of the RadioMarché system in Tominian, Mali. This figure shows part of the hardware setup, including the OfficeRoute GSM gateway.

An upcoming trend is to publish structured data from different sources such as governments (e.g., and and organizations (such as public transport schemas, scientific results, etc.) using the same internet technologies such as HTTP and URI. The Web of Data emerging from this is an extension of the Web: it serves the data using Linked Data approaches so that machines can process them, rather than merely publishing them for human consumption. By treating data as an asset, by sharing and trading it, an open innovation platform for all kinds of services will flourish, linking and augmenting data across domains.

Despite its success so far, the Web implicitly assumes a wide availability of high- bandwidth Internet infrastructure and reliable power supply. Interfacing the Web requires Personal Computers and various skills of which the most pertinent are reading and writing abilities. According to the Web Foundation, there is an estimated 4.5 billion people, mostly living in developing countries, that cannot benefit from the Web for one or more of these reasons. This limits the Web’s generative character per se. For our case study in Mali, only 1.8% of the population has Internet access, only 10% has access to the electricity network, and only 26.2% is literate (source: Internet World StatisticsDeveloping RenewablesIndex Mundi).

For a truly worldwide diffusion of innovations brought forward by the Web, we must devise new types of technologies immune to these infrastructure and interface problems. Hence, complementary or even alternative technologies to the ones we know are needed. Moreover, to guarantee these technologies will be applied and content will be contributed on a large scale, we have to identify value propositions that are interesting enough for a wider audience.

The proposition we consider in this paper is targeted at reducing poverty and hunger in Sub-Saharian Africa through better agricultural and rural development. According to the International Food Policy Institute, small subsistence farmers account for more than 90% of Africa’s agricultural production and are usually at the very bottom of the pyramid. In Africa, agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 65% of the population, it represents 40% of Africa’s GDP and 60% of Africa’s total export. Farmers who can count on different sources of income are less vulnerable in periods of drought. Trading is the best way to increase their income; to this end, better communication and access to customers and market information are key challenges. Our focus now lies on non-timber forest products (NTFPs) because they have a very long tradition and their production involves leadership by men as well as women.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, market information systems (MISs) play an important role in rural agricultural supply chains and are the key to lower food cost and to raising producer and trader incomes (see FAO). MISs are information systems that gather, analyze and publish information about prices and other augmented information relevant to stakeholders involved in handling agricultural products and services. Indeed, farmers have to know the trends in demand to adapt production, find out where to find customers, and be able to determine a reasonable price by comparing with prices from other markets. Hence, there is an urgent need for effective and fair marketing delivered by transparent information. Moreover, costs related to logistics are usually ignored. However, farmers at remote locations have to focus on products that can weigh up for such high prices implied by production as well as transportation costs. Opportunities for innovation through new cultivation techniques, new types of seeds, or by-products remain under-exploited due to a lack of market information needed to deal with the higher production costs.

RadioMarché is being developed within the context of the VOICES (VOIce-based Comunity cEntric mobile Services) project. The conceptual design of the RadioMarché system is shown below.

The RadioMarché system provides alternative interfaces based on voice or SMS via phone or radio, enabling a wider audience to consume and contribute content. The data design is optimized for (i) effective aggregation with other RM instances and data sources from other domains in the Cloud; and (ii) reuse by other services.

The contributions of this paper are :

  • The introduction of RadioMarché (RM), a MIS concept adapted for rural conditions in the African Sahel. Regarding the above-mentioned challenges, RM is not dependent on Internet infrastructure, and has voice-based and sms-based interfaces. By exploiting the upward trend in (first-generation) mobile phone usage and the traditionally central role of radio in these areas, we believe in the generativity; hence a wide adoption of the RM concept in many regions of the Sahel.
  • The proposition of a Linked Data model to address data integration issues across different regions. On a large scale, we deal with the issue of aggregation and management of distributed market data by adopting Linked Data approaches. We show how our design choices offers opportunities to link aggregated market information to datasets from other domains. The resulting “Web of Data” provides an open innovation platform to develop services with augmented reasoning capabilities for e.g. NGOs, governments, policy makers, traders and scientists.
  • A report on a first deployement of RadioMarché conducted in Mali, along with the explanation of the Living Lab approach applied to drive this activity. 

The full position paper will be published  in the proceedings of CAiSE 2012.

de Boer, V.; De Leenheer, P.; Bon, A.; van Aart, C.; Tuyp, W., Boyera, S.; Allen, M.; Akkermans, H.; Gueret, C. (2012) RadioMarché: Distributed Voice- and Web-interfaced Market Information Systems under Rural Conditions. In Proc. of CAiSE 2012

Boosting Open Innovation with Semantic Technology: the Flanders Research Information Space

August 9, 2011

The full article is now published in the professional monthly magazine Informatie. See my earlier blog post for a translation of the summary in English. The work is not done though: we are further crowd sourcing the information space using Linked Data approaches based on semantic standards managed in Collibra’s Business Semantics Glossary. Hence, to be continued, again :-)

Building a Digital Information Market Place for Open Innovation with Collibra, Atira, IBM Research and the Flemish Public Administration

June 20, 2011

Prosperity in a knowledge-based economy will benefit from a well-oiled innovation engine. With the advent of the Web, companies and research institutions have come to realize that they can no longer rely on their own research to innovate. Open innovation is a new practice in which stakeholders trade ideas and results for the benefit of themselves and others; a digital information market place for innovation may then naturally emerge.

The Department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI) of the Flemish government has taken the lead at European Open innovation to drive through Flanders Research Information Space (FRIS, that is “fresh” in Dutch), an ambitious change program that makes data on innovation-related core entities ranging from institutions , researchers, and projects to patents publicly available by means of semantic standards governance (Collibra, EuroCRIS) and service-oriented technology (Atira).

FRIS basic services: a mesh-up of core entities Project, Organisations, and People on a geographical map

Ultimately, this technology forms a generative basis for a digital information marketplace for innovation. To trade information services, one should first determine what information should be included, and what roles are involved in its assembly.

Snapshot of the Collibra Business Semantics Glossary

In this article we discuss the role of business semantics for describing innovation-related core entities. We further illustrate how the business semantics, can be used to capture the life (and assembly) of core entities. Finally, we give a future perspective on FRIS as a digital information market place  for innovation in the broader context of the Semantic Web, today better known as Linked Data Web.

The article is now being published in the professional magazine “Informatie” and will soon be available in English too. As a sneak preview: next figure shows a screenshot of the term “Project” (within the “Project” vocabulary of “CERIF” speech community that is part of the “FRIS” semantic community) in Business Semantics Glossary that implements the SBVR standard. The software is currently deployed at EWI for managing business semantics of CERIF terms underlying the future market place.

A term (here “Project”) can be defined using one or more attributes such as definitions, examples, fact types, rule sets, categorisation schemas (partly shown in taxonomy), and finally milestones for the lifecycle. “Project” is a subtype of the “Thing” and has two subtypes: “large academic project” and “small industrial project”.

Re governance: in the top-right corner is indicated which member in the community (here “Pieter De Leenheer”) carries the role of “steward”, who is ultimately responsible for this term. The status “candidate” indicates that the term is not yet fully articulated: in this case “Project” only 37.5%. This percentage is automatically calculated based on the articulation tasks that have to be performed according to the business semantics management methodology. Tasks are related to defining attributes and are distributed among stakeholders and orchestrated using workflows.

To be continued.

Identify Value Co-creation through Social Network Analysis

March 7, 2011