ICT4D Competence Center Workshop


The Information and Communication Technology for Development Competence Center (ICT4DCC) has been creating different solutions regarding mHealth, mAgriculture, E-Culture and other areas of the quotidian that may help improving the quality of life of the population in under development countries. In order to foster the sharing of the experts’ know-how involved in the ICT4DCC projects, Fraunhofer AICOS held a Workshop with the goal of tackling the several projects under development.

The group of researchers dedicated the morning to enlighten themselves about some solutions such as IZIDoc, OurMoz, Hydroponic Farming, Malaria Scope, ACP Street Libraries, and Epidemiologic Surveillance. All of these correspond to projects being led by the Competence Center. The Workshop on ICT4DCC accomplished its purpose of know-how and expertise sharing among the team.

The ICT4DCC, a Fraunhofer AICOS’ project, has set up a team of international experts that are dedicated to the field and work with international partners from Mozambique (Centro de Informática, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane), South Africa (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University), Germany (Fraunhofer FOKUS) and Portugal (Center for Economics and Finance at the University of Porto) dedicating their effort to the development of pre-commercial ICT solutions.

Read More

OurMoz wins World Bank’s #APPS4MAPUTO contest in Mozambique


The OurMoz project won, last April 15, the #APPS4MAPUTO contest, promoted by UX and the World Bank in Mozambique, a competition which aimed to select a mobile App for use on the project Participatory Urban Service Monitoring for Maputo Municipality (MOPA). The #APPS4MAPUTO contest set the challenge to develop a mobile App aiming to enhance the events’ management and reporting processes carried out by the supervisors from the Direcção Municipal de Gestão de Resíduos Sólidos Urbanos e Salubridade do Município de Maputo, which use would allow a more efficient process of events’ identification, as well as the evaluation of solid waste collection services in the municipality.

The Android App developed within the scope of this competition allows the community supervisors to report situations detected on the field more rapidly; to consult geotagged events, according to a specific category or location; to validate the information submitted by citizens, as well as to give feedback about each situation’s resolution status, assuring that all information is integrated with participatory monitoring platform ntxuva (http://www.ntxuva.org/).

The Application’s stability and usability, the reliability of the information communication, the App’s positive response to the needs of the Participatory Urban Service Monitoring for Maputo Municipality, as well as its capacity to motivate the supervisory workers, were among the qualities acknowledged to the group of young research students Mauro Banze, Félix Barros e Alfredo Muchanga, from the OurMoz team. Moreover, these were the evaluation criteria applied to all solutions submitted to the contest and assessed by judges a panel, which comprehended representatives from several major organizations, such as the World Bank, the Swedish Embassy in Maputo, the mobile communications company mCel, the startup Ideario, and the company UX.

Co-funded by the Programa Operacional Regional do Norte (ON.2), through the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER), the OurMoz project is a mobile, citizen centered platform that provides real-time geotagged information about what is happening within Mozambican cities and results from a partnership between the Fraunhofer AICOS and the Informatics Center of Eduardo Mondlane University (CIUEM), under the scope of the Information and Communication Technologies for Development Competence Center (ICT4DCC).

As a product of the cooperation between these two partners, as well as the knowledge transfer activities and the close collaboration between researchers, the OurMoz App will continue to be developed under the scope of the ICT4DCC in Mozambique, also as a concept validation process and as a potential replication solution for other countries.

As results of this contest, and beyond the award of 1.000 USD to the winning team, it is anticipated that the OurMoz App would be integrated in the scope of the project MOPA, funded by the World Bank and implemented in the Municipality of Maputo.

Read More

Indoor hydroponic garden set up at Fraunhofer Portugal


Fraunhofer AICOS has set up an indoor hydroponic garden on its premises in order to allow the development of tests regarding the Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming (AE4HF), one of its project which is being developed under the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) Competence Center. Since hydroponic farming is a fairly new concept, Fraunhofer AICOS carried out a Workshop to provide knowledge on hydroponic farming to the research team. The indoor hydroponic garden will be used for research purposes aimed at continuous improvement of the AE4HF solution. The goals of the Workshop was to provide training on the use of devices and processes of measuring the key parameters for success in hydroponics and on how to maintain the conditions at optimum levels that are ideal for plant growth.

The Workshop consisted of two activities. The first one, more theoretical, aimed to outline the concept and the critical success factors of hydroponic farming. It was led by Armando Costa, a consultant and retailer in hydroponic equipment and chemicals. During the second activity, all the participants were involved in the installation of an office hydroponic garden in which tomatoes and strawberries were planted.

The objectives of the Workshop were remarkably achieved. Participants with different backgrounds (software developers, graphic designers and hardware developers) attended the session and enriched their knowledge on hydroponics.

Focused on the South African farmers, the primary goal of the Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming is to create a low cost mechanism for mobile monitoring of hydroponic environment. It comprises of an Android application communicating with high-tech low cost sensors. When the farmer is in the farm, she or he can walk in the greenhouse and collect farm parameter readings using a smartphone through Bluetooth connection to the sensors. Secondly, the farmer can use the personal computer or smartphone to monitor the farm environment while at home or in the office. Lastly the hydroponic systems allows the farmer to receive SMS based alerts and app notifications through the smartphone while they are away from the farm.

It is envisioned that the AE4HF will contribute socio-economic benefits to the farmers by improving farm management through real time monitoring and controlling of the environmental farm parameters and providing intelligent recommendations for optimizing yields.

The Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming is being developed under the ICT4D Competence Center scope in partnership with the School of Information and Communication Technology at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa.

Read More

Fostering culture in developing countries


The ACP Street Libraries project is now at full speed after the kickoff meeting, which was held last 29th and 30th May. The project started earlier this year and aims to contribute to the development of culture in African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries by preserving and sharing local culture, as well as promoting the creation and modernization of local Street Libraries. The kick-off meeting, led by Fraunhofer Portugal, took place in Ghana in the presence of all partners: Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA, a NGO in Ghana) that hosted the event, Microsoft Portugal, Appui Solidaire pour le Renforcement de l'aide au developpement (ASRAD, an association in Cameroon), and Youth Crime Watch of Liberia (YCWL, a NGO in Liberia). This meeting included open discussions about project’s orientations, management, communications, sustainability, modules, and use cases.

The meeting included a social activity with VPWA leading a visit to one of rural Ghana’s Street Libraries, which will use the platform being developed. Many Ghanaian children gathered as usual in the place prepared by VPWA to learn how to read, as well as to share and read books. All the kick-off participants were able to attend a reading lesson and interact with the young readers. ACP Street Libraries hopes to make these resources easier to share, to improve management of these remote Libraries and to take the digital contents, either written or oral, to these communities.

Back to their countries, all the partners have now restarted their work towards the ambitious goals established, as the ACP Street Libraries project expects to create new Street Libraries that can reach even more children, share digital cultural contents allowing a broader range of children accessing cultural contents and gather artists, entrepreneurs, and institutions around a digital cultural database that aims to be a cultural heritage for future generations. Because there is ‘No Future Without Culture /Pas De Futur Sans Culture’.

With the Financial contribution of the European Union (European Development Fund) and the assistance of the ACP Group of States.

Read More

Making life easier in developing countries


With the objective of simplifying Mozambican administrative acts, Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS is developing IZIDoc project under the Information and Communication Technologies for Development Competence Center (ICT4D-CC). The IZIDoc is a mobile solution aiming to inform citizens of the availability and status of the requested goods or services, thus saving time and avoiding useless dislocations, optimizing customer service. The project intends to simplify administrative acts that require personal attendance at service provider's facilities such as administration, police, pharmacy, bank, among others. The IZIDoc solution focuses on the development of a mobile application that will allow to search information related with different types of documents addressing service requirements, map visualization, timetables, costs, average waiting times, document processing times, etc. It will also allow to search for people or friends who have already dealt with the same type of document. Furthermore, a notification will alert the user when the document is ready to be collected.

In this first phase, the project is being deployed among the student community in the Academic Secretariat Services of the Mozambican Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) with the goal to extend this solution use to other interested public services. A second deployment shall involve different partnerships with other Mozambican Institutions (e.g. Conservatories, Criminal records, etc.).

The innovation on this project relies on the integration of diverse administrative services under a single platform and on the fact that in the Mozambican context, and in the developing countries in general, IT and Internet services have still little presence.

The IZIDoc solution has started in collaboration with the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) in Mozambique, where the first pilot is taking place. Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS will also welcome one senior researcher from the UEM to coordinate the development of this solution in close collaboration with two MSc Students and a coordinator professor from the Informatics Center (CIUEM).

This project is part of the framework of ICT4D-CC (ICT4D Competence Center), with reference “Projeto n.º NORTE-07-0124-FEDER-000042”, co-financed by the Regional Operational Program of the North (ON.2), in accordance with the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN), through the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER).

Read More

OurMOZ: a platform to foster eCommerce & eCitizens


With the objective of creating a mobile application in order to collect, report, share and search for information useful for the citizens, the Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS is developing the OurMOZ project. Under the Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) Competence Center, OurMOZ is a mobile, citizen centered platform that provides real-time geotagged information of what is happening within the cities. What time does that business open? Which important event is being held this week? Is there any community problem going on? These are some of the questions which may, from now on, be supported by the OurMOZ project. Also, it is expected that this platform will boost small commerce and enhance the engagement between citizens and other local stakeholders.

The citizens play an important role in the OurMOZ project since the information is relied from them to themselves. Registered users (reporters/scouts) can provide geotagged facts and occurrences, while unregistered citizens can only add temporary information and see what happens in their neighbourhood. Institutional consumers can visualize stats or anonymous reports (e.g. a broken tube in a road, a leak in the roof of a school, etc.), which might be extremely valuable to promptly react to eventual problems.

Currently, OurMOZ is being design and implemented in Mozambique, in collaboration with the University Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), however, the project may be replicated in every developing country. The platform is tailored precisely to under development countries, combining the social network concept with the citizen’s reporting and eCommerce information. Associated parameters such as the lifetime of information, number of similar reports, number of positive feedbacks, among others, will provide consistency and credibility to the platform.

Citizens of developing countries have little access to information and poor involvement in what is related with local businesses, community services or institutional entities. The increasing adoption of Smartphones in Mozambique opens thus an opportunity for mobile crowdsourcing platforms, which allow real-time gathering of contributions from a large local community. When used to enhance city services, it can be very useful, letting citizens play an active role in their community.

Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS will welcome one PhD graduate from CIUEM (Centro de Informática da UEM) to coordinate the project and three MSc students working in Mozambique which will have the opportunity to work on aspects of the project related to their research thesis.

The project is part of the framework of ICT4DCC (ICT4D Competence Center), with reference “Projeto n.º NORTE-07-0124-FEDER-000042”, co-financed by the Regional Operational Program of the North (ON.2), in accordance with the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN), through the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER).

Read More

Low cost solution for hydroponic farms in South Africa and Mozambique


Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS is developing a new project under the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) Competence Center. Focused on the South African farmers, the primary goal of the Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming is to create a low cost mechanism for mobile monitoring of hydroponic farms. Hydroponic farming is a mean of precision agriculture where plants are grown in mineral nutrient solution instead of soil. This type of farming became relevant in South Africa, since it offers a controlled environment, making urban farming more practicable means agriculture. Market gardening based urban farming is increasing, becoming a major contributing practice to food security in South Africa. The effective management of hydroponic farming requires constant monitoring of inside and outside parameters: monitoring temperature, humidity, turbidity of the nutrients' solution, watering, among others. Currently, the whole process of monitoring the conditions in the hydroponic environment is done by manual systems, which are time consuming, labor intense and prone to inaccuracies.

The Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming project, led by Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, aims precisely to reduce the costs involved in this process by creating a new, low cost solution. The project aims to analyze the requirements of hydroponic farms in South Africa and Mozambique and suitably develop a mobile solution for farmers in order to improve the level of management, control and production of hydroponic farms. This approach makes it possible for farmers to get to know the conditions in the hydroponic farm without physically visiting the farm, thus saving time and reducing labor intensity while collecting accurate data.

The development of this project should result in a prototype of a Wireless Sensor Node (WSN) based on android application to accurately monitor the essential variables for optimal plant growth in hydroponic environments. Results of prototype implementation are expected during mid-2015. The system is estimated to maximize crop yield while utilizing minimum resources. Globally, the initiative aims to boost farming markets and food security in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

This project is being developed in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), in South Africa. A "happy marriage" as the NMMU refers to in an article published online (read it here).

In this scope, Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS will welcome one PhD graduate from South Africa to coordinate the project and two MSc students which will have the opportunity to work on aspects of the project related to their research thesis.

The Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming project is part of the framework of ICT4D Competence Center (ICT4D-CC), with reference “Projeto n.º NORTE-07-0124-FEDER-000042”, co-financed by the Regional Operational Program of the North (ON.2), in accordance with the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN), through the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER).

Read More

ACP Street libraries


The ACP Street Library project aims to further develop a cultural activity already implemented in African countries, the Street Libraries, by reinforcing the existing actions and by creating the conditions to leverage and expand this concept to more African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) countries. Within this project, the intention rests upon the creation of a set of actions, services and features that will allow actual and future cultural entrepreneurs, NGOs and private and public institutions, to leverage Street Libraries in ACP Countries, developing this cultural action at regional, national and international levels as well as maximize its impact on local populations, especially in children and young people.

The three countries involved in the project - Cameroon, Ghana and Liberia - have rich and diverse cultural traditions, but artists and cultural entrepreneurs have limited means for distributing culture. For example, in Ghana, as part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the government recognized the need for increased means of distribution of arts by agreeing to create avenues for distribution of art, exhibitions, and live performances. The Ghana Book Trust developed a book distribution program in order to promote a greater access to books and culture. Artists in Cameroon may receive support for performances from the government, and UNESCO is funding a project to catalogue audio-visual materials. In Liberia, artists have expressed the need for more means of distributing cultural materials as well as more government/sponsor support. It is estimated that more than 45% of youth are illiterate. Even in countries where the government or sponsors provide support for exhibitions or performances, these events happen for a short period of time and are often not accessible to people living in rural areas. In addition to a lack of access to cultural materials, low means of distribution also have an economic impact on artists and cultural entrepreneurs.

This project proposes to address access to literary culture, visual arts, and music through mobile telephony. The date from World Bank 2011 data suggests large mobile phone penetration for the selected countries ( 41% in Liberia, 53% in Cameroon, and over 85% in Ghana). This offers the potential of a decentralized and entrepreneurial approach for the distribution of cultural materials using mobile telephones in street libraries.

The main objective of the ACP Street Library project is to contribute to the development of culture in ACP countries mainly by promoting the creation of new Street Libraries and the modernization of existing ones. The partners of involved in the project - Microsoft MLDC, VPWA (NGO), ASRAD - Appui Solidaire Pour Le Renforcement De L'aide Au Developpement and YCWL - Youth Crime Watch of Liberia - plan to develop a set of activities related with the ACP Cultural sector promotion and consolidation, mainly by encouraging the preservation of local cultures that are currently only transmitted in oral format.

There are four specific objectives associated to the project implementation, namely: Increase the number of ACP Street Libraries, Increase the number of books available for oral reading in ACP Street Libraries, Improve existing databases of ACP countries local culture and Improve ACP countries discussion and cooperation platforms.

The key stakeholders of the project will be the actual and future cultural entrepreneurs who will benefit from the project and gain the opportunity to promote and disseminate their artistic work. NGOs,private and public institutions will also benefit from the project by building the necessary capacity to create new Street Libraries and cultural projects, as well as the universities and research centers who will benefit from the new project results by promoting technology transfer to the local students. Most importantly, the local population will largely benefit from the implementation of this project. Children and young people of ACP countries will have access to more cultural resources and will be able to preserve their history and local legends for generations to come.

With the Financial contribution of the European Union (European Development Fund) and the assistance of the ACP Group of States.

Read More

Fraunhofer Portugal launches Competence Centers


All humans can experience an unwanted fall during their life. Although this tends to be a rather ‘natural’ occurrence, there are several groups in our society that suffer from long term effects of fall instances. Falling can represent serious consequences, including injury, psychological damage, limitations on mobility and reduced quality of life. There are some specific groups presenting higher risks of fall and damage, for example, those performing high-risk activities or those presenting age or illness related changes. The problem is that frequently these high-risk groups act/live alone and as such, after a fall, they are not able to ask for help, so assistance is not provided efficiently. Particularly, older people, who tend to be frailer, are an increasing segment of population that present higher risks of injury and other fall related consequences.

Until today, solutions that help detect or reduce the risk of falls have only been investigated for individual groups of society and the concern has never been addressed in a holistic manner. Seeing that until now there has been very little knowledge and limited products that are affordable and reliable, Fraunhofer Portugal positioned itself to set up a Fall Competence Center (FCC) to research in depth all fall related aspects, including activity monitoring, in order to develop knowledge and, consequently, viable solutions based on the use of smartphones for the everyday life of specific groups aspects. Fraunhofer Portugal expectation is that later on, this innovative knowledge and solutions will be able to be transferred to industry partners and applied in valuable commercial products. The recently started FCC will bring together experts from different relevant fields (medicine, physics, electronics, ICT, HCI) that will be able to address and cover all these matters in an resourceful manner, as well as extend and apply the already existent knowledge in the area of Falls and Activity Monitoring to other activity areas and target groups as, for instance, falls and injuries that occur from the practice of sports, namely extreme sports, and to increase the security of high risk groups of users as guards, firefighters, security personnel and police officers during their professional activity.

The FCC project will help to create 15 new research positions for students and researchers at Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS and, due to its international background, will also attract experts from outside of Portugal. The goals of the project have been endorsed by a number of leading international research organizations in the field, such as Fraunhofer IDMT, University of Limerick and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. The proposal is also in line with the devised strategy defined by the Health Cluster Portugal. Fraunhofer Portugal will make all the efforts to ensure that knowledge and results obtained will be disseminated into the related industry, reinforcing one of the main cluster objectives.

Besides the Fall Competence Center, Fraunhofer Portugal is also starting the activities of the Information and Communication Technologies for Development Competence Center (ICT4D CC), a competence center focused on the development of ICT targeting the needs and challenges of developing countries.

The ICT4D-CC is an evolution of the highly successful ‘Android for Developing’ (A4D) project that Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS carried out in 2009/2010 with partners from industry (SAP Research, South Africa, PT Inovação, Portugal) and science (CI-UEM, Mozambique). Originally designed to gain experience in the collaboration with African partners in the development of mobile applications, the expectations were exceeded by far.

In terms of market potential, ICT are rapidly growing in developing countries, with growth rates significantly above industrial countries. Even if today this is partly related to the increasing market saturation in industrial countries and the still small absolute market volume in developing countries, the potential of the addressed market size in developing countries (5 billion people) is by far the largest business opportunity for the ICT sector in the near to mid-term future.

Due to the fact that the demands of the users and the environment as a whole differ in many aspects from industrial countries, only parts of the available ICT solutions will fit. This will require a significant number of resources in research and development activities in order to adopt existing solutions and to create new products/services that serve the demands of those emerging markets. Improving access to information and communication technologies in developing countries is also very important driver for their overall economic and social development.

The goal of the ICT4D-CC is to set up a team of international experts at Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS that are dedicated to improve the access to ICT in developing countries and that will, within the related project, work with international partners from Mozambique (CI-UEM), South Africa (NMMU), Germany (Fraunhofer FOKUS), and Portugal (CEFUP) in order to develop dedicated pre-commercial ICT solutions in the areas of: mobile Agriculture; Health, Government-light Solutions for Citizens and Very Small Enterprises (VSE). The competence center is expected to run until mid-2015, however the idea is to establish a sustainable operation also after the initial phase with the above identified partners. It is expected that the promotion of joint activities that meet the partners’ field of operation, will lead to applied scientific results and products that fulfill local demands in Sub-Sahara Africa.

The goals of the proposal have been endorsed by a number of leading national and international organizations and industry, such as Worldbank, UNCTAD (United Nations, Conference on Trade and Development), PT Inovação and APDC (Portuguese Association for the Development of Communication).

Read More