Posts Tagged ‘research’

Towards an Emerging CS Student Community for Regreening Africa: Random Impressions of our First Workshop

April 22, 2012

Group photo of the First Web alliance for Regreening in Africa Student mini-symposium

Two years after the kick off (reported here), we are gaining a lot of momentum with the Regreening Africa initiative.

Last Friday, 20 April, we organized a first mini workshop with master students who are conducting their master thesis project in the context of a Web for Regreening Africa. The Web Alliance for Regreening Africa initiative is primarily  funded by two running EC-funded research projects W4RA and m-Voices. However, regarding the societal relevance we are convinced we can deliver a convincing bargain for  a larger community of interest to emerge. We have many communities in mind; this workshop aimed at a community at VU of master/PhD students branching their research out from the central theme, but we also have established social networks such as Diaspora and ITGlobal in mind from which we aim to source content contributions.

Our main goal, hence bargain, is to establish a Web of African content through several microprojects. A selection:

  • crowdsourcing app for converting pluvial observation data in the Sahel;
  • crowdsourcing app for gathering voice fragments in different languages that can be used for voice-based services
  • a sustainability analysis for voice-based event organizer;
  • RadioMarché: distributed market information system for non-timber tree forest products;
  • linked data mash ups for NGOs.

This workshop was a first step in bringing VU Computer Science students’ projects together from Ghana, Ethiopia, Buthan, Iran, Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Suriname, etc. For an overview of the different lines we are exploring check our CAiSE 2012 position paper and ESWC 2012 poster and paper (to be published soon, see list below). Next, some impression from the projects. From my point of view, the meeting was a succes and we agreed to organize a second installment later this year.

Master students from around the Globe: The Netherlands, Iran, Buthan, Zimbabwe / South Africa, and Ethiopia.

Historical pluvial data from regions in the Sahel captured on paper. Binyam Tesfa develops an app to source a crowd willing to convert this data into digital format.

In order to realise voice-based services for various dialects present in the Sahel, Roksareh Nakhaei builds an app that sources a crowd to produce voice fragments. The tasks here require specific language skills, so we cannot source from any general social network such as Facebook.


A mobile event organiser is one of the case studies identified in the m-Voices project. Through voice-based interfaces (using radio or phone) events can be published and consumed. The goal of this project, done by Albert Chifura is to analyse the cost of setting up such infrastructure, hence involvin a "business" sustainability model analysis.


First design of a sustainability assessment of M-event organiser identifying stakeholders and value exchange between them (courtesy of Albert Chifura).

Related publications:

  • Bon, A.; de Boer, V.; De Leenheer, P.; van Aart, C.; Gyan, N.; Akkermans, H. (2012)  The Web of Radios – Introducing African Community Radio as an Interface to the Web of Data. In Proc. of ESWC 2012: 1st Int’l Workshop on Downscaling the Semantic Web, LNCS, Springer, to appear
  • de Boer, V.; Gyan, N.; Bon, De Leenheer, P.; van Aart, C.; Gyan, N.; Akkermans, H. (2012) Voice-based Access to Linked Market Data in the Sahel. In Proc. of ESWC 2012: 1st Int’l Workshop on Downscaling the Semantic Web, LNCS, Springer, to appear
  • 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, in press

Collibra and IBM Research join forces in European research on service-oriented architectures

May 20, 2010

I am happy to announce that my company Collibra has acquired considerable co-funding in ACSI, a European FP7 research project worth 5 million Euro. ACSI stands for “Artifact-Centric Service Interoperation”. The coordinator is IBM Research Haifa, and the kick-off of the project will be held in June at their premises in Israel. Details of the international consortium are below.

ACSI will serve to dramatically reduce the effort and lead-time of designing, deploying, maintaining, and joining into environments that support service collaborations. This will be achieved by developing a rich framework around the novel notions of dynamic artifacts and interoperation hubs, enabling a substantial simplification in the establishment and maintenance of service collaborations.


Interoperation between electronic services, and more generally the business processes embodied by these services, is one of the most challenging and pressing issues in today’s increasingly globalized and de-centralized economy. Out-sourcing, globalization, and the automation of business processes continue to increase.  However, today, there is no effective, flexible, scalable, and principled approach to enable the interoperation of services across enterprise boundaries in support of shared (business) goals.  This is a major roadblock to preventing the automation of these kinds of collaboration, and more broadly, the design, deployment, and operation of innovative value nets.  The ACSI project is aimed directly at filling this vacuum.

Based on an innovative foundation, the ACSI research will develop scientific advances, techniques, and tools to dramatically simplify the design and deployment of infrastructure to support service collaborations, the ability of services to join such collaborations, and the evolution of such collaborations as the marketplace and competitive landscape change.

A Brand New Approach

Artifact-Centric Service Interoperation (ACSI) is based on two fundamental constructs: the interoperation hub and dynamic artifacts. Business-driven intelligent operation of these constructs will be grounded by business semantics.

An interoperation hub serves as a virtual rendezvous for multiple services that work together towards a common goal. Our research will develop a principled, easy-to-use framework for creating, deploying, maintaining, and joining into ACSI interoperation hubs in essentially any application domain. Similar to EasyChair or, an ACSI interoperation hub will serve as the anchor for a collaborative IT environment that supports large numbers of service collaborations that operate independently, but focus on essentially common goals. These hubs are primarily reactive, serving as a kind of structured whiteboard to which participating services can refer. The hubs can be updated with information relevant to the group, assist the services by carrying out selected tasks, or notify services of key events.

Example of interoperation hub that supports collaboration around hiring

The interoperation hubs used in ACSI will be structured around dynamic artifacts, also known as “business artifacts” or “business entities”. These provide an holistic marriage of data and processes, serving as the basic building block for modeling, specifying, and implementing services and business processes.  In the context of single enterprises, it has been shown that the use of artifacts can lead to substantial cost savings in the design and deployment of business operations and processes, and can dramatically improve communication between stakeholders. Artifacts can give an end-to-end view of how key conceptual business entities evolve as they move through the business operations, in many cases across two or more silos. As a result, artifacts can substantially simplify the management or “hand-off” of data and processing between services and organizations.

A key pillar of the ACSI research is to generalize the advantages of dynamic artifacts to the broader context of interoperation hubs and service collaborations. While the interoperation hubs themselves will take advantage of the artifact paradigm, the services participating in such hubs are not required to be artifact-centric; they can be conventional SOA services, including legacy applications with SOA adapters.


ACSI provides an approach to populating the web with semantically rich building blocks, around which services can cluster to create a broad variety of service collaborations and value networks.

The ACSI interoperation hub framework, in conjunction with the underlying ACSI artifact paradigm, provides a rich structure around which many subsequent scientific and technology advances can be made. The ACSI research will substantially extend current verification and synthesis techniques to incorporate data along with process, and will develop the next generation of process mining research by generalizing it to handle data along with process.

The project aims to achieve dramatic savings over conventional approaches to service interoperation across several areas: design and deployment, on-boarding, day-to-day operation, maintenance, data transformation automation, and evolvability. This will be accomplished while enabling rich flexibility for the different service collaborations using a given interoperation hub.

The technology can be applicable in key challenge areas of societal importance, including government, energy, healthcare, supply chain logistics (especially in industries such as food or heavy manufacture with deep upstream supply chains), and heavy manufacture (e.g., airline industries). The mechanisms incorporated into the ACSI framework to support rich variation within a single hub can be especially advantageous in domains, such as human resources, where there are significant differences from country to country.

The ACSI interoperation hub framework will provide a paradigm shift in the way that services, and more generally enterprises, can work together.


IBM Research – Haifa (coordinator)

Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza

Libera Università di Bolzano

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven

Tartu Ulikool

Indra Software Labs SLU

Collibra NV