Tutorial at EKAW 2014

November 24, morning

Managing and sharing knowledge in the developing part of the world

State of the art knowledge management is too often relying on the presence of stable Internet connection and the availability of sufficient computing resources. These requirements however, do not hold in many, mostly rural, parts of the world where knowledge is managed and shared mainly through direct vocal communication, mobile telephony and radio broadcasts. Granting access to ICT-based information systems to these populations is challenging because of the assumptions commonly made. E.g. one can not simply deploy a centralised, web-based, marketplace and wiki to let farmers in rural Mali share farming knowledge and information about the crop prices. Instead, our best practices have to be downscaled and re-considered in conjunction with the end users to design Knowledge systems that fit the usage context.

In this tutorial we will highlight the needs behind several concrete knowledge sharing use cases  in rural parts of the world and derive generic challenges from them. Some technological and social solutions that can be identified for those challenges will be presented and some other discussed and created together with the audience. A particular attention will be given to the things not to do.


The goal of the tutorial is to shed a light on the specific conditions that 6 Billion people face daily and that are too often unknown to the research community working on the design knowledge information systems. This falls directly under the “diversity” topic of the conference this year and more broadly under the knowledge management theme of EKAW. We argue that the design of information system for developing countries calls for specific tools, practices and patterns.

More practically, we will equip the participants with an analytic toolkit to identify, in their own work, opportunities to broaden their research to be relevant to the people on the other side of the digital divide, as well as interesting research challenges that are specific to a development context.

There is a need for Computer Science to open up to Development challenges. In this tutorial we will argue for the emergence of a coherent CS sub-discipline, encompassing specific knowledge representation, information retrieval and software engineering research topics.

Organisation team and presenters

The tutorial was planned by the members of the “World Wide Semantic Web” (WWSemWeb) and “Web alliance for regreening in Africa” (W4RA) communities. The individuals and institutions behind these two groups have a strong experience on the topic and already organised other related events. The tutorial will be presented by:

  • Stefan Schlobach (k.s.schlobach@vu.nl) is an assistant professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His current research focuses on using nonstandard techniques and semantics for reasoning and querying, scalable reasoning through approximation and parallelization, and reasoning services for ontology languages such as mapping, explanation, or abduction. Schlobach received a PhD in knowledge extraction in description logics from the University of London.
    For some time now he has been involved in various ICT4D activities, in a more advisory role for the WWSemWeb, VOICES and W4RA, as co-coordinator of one of the few ICT4D Master courses in Europe, as well as co-organisor of the first International Symposium on “perspectives for ICT4D” at the VU Amsterdam.

The tutorial will be based on previous courses developed jointly with a number of people from various other institutions:

  • Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
    • Victor de Boer’s (v.de.boer@vu.nl) research focuses on linked data and Semantic Web technologies, specifically, extracting, modeling, and interacting with heterogeneous data in the domain of digital humanities and ICT4D.
  • Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS)
    • Christophe Guéret (christophe.gueret@dans.knaw.nl) is a research associate at the Data Archiving and Networked Services institute and the eHumanities group of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). His research activities are centered around the design of decentralized interconnected knowledge systems and their social and societal implications, especially in the ICT for development (ICT4D) context. Guéret received a PhD at the intersection of computational intelligence and knowledge representation from the University of Tours, France.
  • SBC4D
    • Stéphane Boyera (stephane@sbc4d.com) founded SBC4D in January 2009 and till July 2013, was contracted to act as Lead Program Manager at the World Wide Web Foundation. Stephane, as part of SBC4D core activities, is also advising numerous non-profits organizations, commercial companies, governments and international organizations interested in delivering mobile services to under-privileged communities in the developing world. Stéphane has a passion for leveraging the power of mobile and Web technologies to empower people in parts of the world where they need it most. Stéphane has participated in different experts panel on the topic of Mobile and Social Development, including the World Bank Expert Panel on Mobile for Rural Development, the World Bank Expert Panel on mobile Health, and Vodafone Socio-economic Impact of Mobile (SIM) panel. Stéphane also delivers keynotes and talks in major conferences all over the world coping with ICT4D and the provision of the benefits of the Web and ICT to under-privileged communities. Previously, Stéphane joined the World Wide Web Consortium, created and still directed by Tim Berners-Lee, in 1995. Leading the W3C Device Independence Working Group from 2001 until the end of 2005, he was a key participant in the development and launch of theW3C Mobile Web Initiative. Stéphane also took part in the management of the Voice and Multimodal Activities. From 2006, he led W3C’s work on the Mobile Web for Social Development group, which is looking at how to extend the frontier of the Web to make it relevant, usable and useful for rural communities and under-privileged populations of developing countries. Since 2014, Stéphane works part time again for W3C to lead the work on Web Payments.
  • ExaScale InfoLab
    • Philippe Cudré-Mauroux (phil@exascale.info) is a Swiss-NSF Professor at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, where he leads the eXascale Infolab. His work on emergent semantics and data sharing in low connectivity contexts directly contribute to bringing innovative knowledge management solutions to challenging contexts.

Tutorial content

K4D is a half day tutorial organized around presentations and discussion sessions. Part of the goals of the tutorial will be to also let participants feel what does not work from showing them things that are known not to work to let them propose something in a hands-on session and discuss the applicability of these solutions.

The program will be split in four sessions:

  • Session 1: 9:00 – 9.45  “Scenarios: Knowledge Sharing for developing countries”
    • Introduce the context by discussing a number of existing development projects
    • Argue that the need for Knowledge Sharing is not restricted to the developed world by introducing concrete cases of knowledge sharing among sustenance farmers, young learners and others deprived from high-end ICT
    • Discussion: problems and solutions  participants are/have been/want to be involved in.
  • Session 2: 9.45 – 10.30 “Challenges and solutions: Knowledge Sharing in development practice”
    • Development specific challenges: infrastructure, interface and relevancy
    • Specific solutions developed by the WWSemWeb and W4RA communities for a number of concrete use-cases.
  • Coffee break 10:30-11:00
  • Session 3:11:00 – 11.45 “K(E/A/M)4D: Enabeling Knowledge for Empowerment?”
    • ICT4D: the bigger picture; the social-economic, ethical and political dimension. Knowledge and empowerment; dangers and opportunities
    • Abstract from the local context to determine development specific Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management challenges
    • Discussion to share more examples and try to spot similarities.
  • Session 4: 11.45 – 12.30 Development Informatics
    • Introduce Development Informatics: an initiative to establish joint Computer Science research in the area of development
    • Discussion: Is there something like Development Informatics?
    • Sharing ideas on community building
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