Category: technology

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies– buzzwords or pioneering technology?

In 2008, Bitcoin was introduced to the world, and still, it is not quiet clear to the lay audience of internet users. In 2010, I had a chance to get Bitcoins for my birthday from my geeky, open source expert friend. I refused them over the traditional paper notebook, as I knew about bitcoins but I didn’t know for sure how could I use them in the rest of Europe where it wasn’t present and developed enough to act. Eight years forward, now I know.

In 2012, I chatted with Mike Hearn, a former BitCoin core developer on the future of the cryptocurrencies and the bitcoin, and back then, he expressed his doubt that there are not many other open source projects with such large social implications such as cryptocurrencies. Especially, Hearn stressed that social scientists have a lot to contribute and collaborate together with computer scientists and IT developers.

The revolutionary power of such technology can be compared with the revolution sparked by the world wide web and the Internet in general. As the Internet can be seen as a mean for sharing information, so blockchain technologies can be seen as a way to introduce the next level: blockchain allows the possibility of sharing digital value. As the Web 2.0 was all in the zeitgeist of social network(ing)/s and Web 3.0 in semantics, the blockchain technologies could be the advent and the rise of the Web 4.0. Blockchain technologies, and more specifically, cryptocurrencies, present a disruptive and revolutionary technology, which will have major impacts on multiple aspects of our lives, impacting industries, organizations, and governments.

Bitcoin by Tiger Pixel

Cryptocurrencies are limited entries in consensus-decentralized databases secured by strong cryptography. One of the most popular, BitCoin is p2p, decentralized digital currency, with no central bank or authority. Instead, it relies on collaborating of independent computers sharing copies of a set of data. The concept of a digital currency is very appealing and real innovation on many levels: it is open source, decentralized, distributed, transparent system and peer-authenticated ledger. However, the digital assets exchanges services need to work on trust and feeling that is a safe technology. Many digital assets exchange platforms and wallet services need to earn users’ trust and gain reputation. In any of the transactions, and it won’t be easy in the current crypto craze ecosystem. While there is a massive potential for returns and transparency and decentralization, on the other side, there are potential mismanagement, increased volatility, the security issues, and the education as a big part before the average people use this technology, as well as continuous work the user experience.

Cryptocurrencies are relatively new and disruptive technologies in terms of social, economic and technological consequences. We can only anticipate the dynamics and consequences of the blockchain technologies in a variety of disciplines settings. They are still somehow geeky and not understood by most people; banks, governments and many companies need to be aware of its importance. There are potential applications for blockchains in the sharing economy, the financial services companies, big banks (currently experimenting by JP Morgan, the Bank of England, and the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), stock trading; then, handling digital identity across social networks and online services, handling of voting (already experimenting by the open source project Sovereign using blockchains), governance, protection of intellectual property, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, in reducing the economic and social inequalities and gaps.

What it needs to be seen in regards to digital media and blockchain is to explore the socio-economic and technological aspects and consequences of decentralized technologies. We are really only just starting to explore the true potential impact of this kind of technology.

To be continued.

A letter from Oslo

It’s been over a month since the Digi project inception meeting in Oslo. Those who missed my previous posts on this, in a nutshell: the Non-discriminating access for Digital Inclusion (DigI) project is a three year project, running from 2017–2020 with the main objective to establish pilots for the InfoInternet access in DRC Congo and Tanzania. The project was founded by the Research Council of Norway as part of the Visjon2030 portfolje. R&I work related to the pilots will prove business profitability for commercial establishment of the InfoInternet as an independent and self-sustainable ICT and communication infrastructure for digital inclusion.

The project vision on free access to information for everyone’ is realised in Tanzania through the intervention free access to digital health information and in DRC through free access to information as basis for digital economy.

The assumption of the project is that information uptake will

  • lead to knowledge update, both for health education and for school education;
  • prepare the ground for digital literacy;
  • contribute to better health for humans and animals; and will
  • foster societal growth both in terms of digital entrepreneurship and the overall economy.

We approach the vision of the design of new technology, the InfoInternet, providing hot-spots with free access to information both on user devices (BYOD) and on tablets. Through the hot-spots, we address availability and affordability. The hot-spots themselves will create jobs related to the digital economy (e.g. voucher sales), and are the entry points for other actors supporting information access, e.g. sponsoring Internet Access through advertisements.

This is what happened in Oslo. Day one of the kick-off meeting happened at UNIK, in Kjeller where the first internet in Europe came in 1973. Beside the meeting and presentations I followed, I had a pretty hectic day: it was a deadline day for the Marie Curie project proposal I was applying for (note to self — never, never ever wait the last minute for a deadline or submit three minutes before servers are closing down the submission form). Bernard Ngowi from the National Centre for Medical Research, in Tanzania, presented Digital Health for Africa, and experiences from Tanzania [click here to see the presentation]. Andrea Winkler from University of Oslo talked about Germany-Norway collaboration and Centre for Global Health [click to open], and Erwan Le Quentrec from Orange presented Economic Development using Mobile Phone can transform social development into cooperation and co-development [click to open].

Afterwards, we drove to Oslo marina and from there, our group took a boat through the fjord into the beautiful nature and green area by the sea, to the peninsula of Nesodden where we had a lovely dinner in a rustic boathouse in Flaskebekk. It was so fun and adventurous to go through the fjord and drive the boat (thanks Josef for letting me navigate and not ruin your boat and keeping the team alive on the surface). After the dinner and some frolics, I returned to the city by ferry, it was already late at night.

Oslo Marina

through the fjord

arriving in Flaskebekk

dinner

Day two of the Digi meeting started with the identification of topics and next steps, and planning and scheduling for Tanzania and Congo. Actually, we brainstormed and discussed all day, it was inspiring and interactive; we checked out the solar panel pilot at the gazebo, a health and village platform we plan for the rural areas in Tanzania. Also, we set up the future analogue meetings in the next couple of years. My tasks include digital literacy exploration and KPI, Uptake of Digital Health Information, Technology acceptance and User acceptance, etc. Everything is collaborative work and I’m very happy and grateful to work with amazing colleagues from different disciplines.

Digi meetings

in front of the pilot

See you next time with the new Digi project letters from Tanzania, Berlin, and Paris.

Updates and Call for Village Hackathon

Background: Agenda 2030

The United Nations have established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing 17 goals with a total of 169 targets. Given the ongoing development, it is obvious that development need digital inclusion, and the transformation towards digital societies.

Basis for digital societies is information for all, and the digital access. Given that roughly 4 billion people (status 2016) are not connected to the Internet, the first focus is ‘Goal 9 on sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. We see that target 9.C Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020 is directly addressed through the InfoInternet standard on free access to information for all.

Updates

My colleagues and I, at the Basic Internet Foundation, invited 9 partners for the DigI activity “Non-discriminating access for digital inclusion”, with the goal of piloting digital health in Tanzania (TZ) and the digital ecosystem in Congo (DRC). The Research Council of Norway and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are supporting this pilot.

As part of the activities, the consortium has established a pilot installation of a village hot-spot for digital health, and is now planning the Connectivity of the 4 pilot villages in TZ and the villages Kano and Palu in DRC. During the pilot, we identified the need for cost-effective infrastructures in the villages. Regarding connectivity, we have standardised on cost-effective equipment from Mikrotik and Witelcom.

However, we have seen the need for a village server and an IoT gateway. We envision student work or hackathons to establish the infrastructure for sustainable development.

Village Hackathons

Village platform

We currently discuss a “village platform” as the digital hub for the remote villages. Goal of this hackathon  would be to establish a low-power community server for a village of 2.000 – 10.000 people. Given the costs of communication and electricity, we envisage:

  • a low-power (<50W) platform for storage of local video information
  • PoE or solar-powered operation
  • server for local community content
  • social network platform for the village society
  • cache server for network content
  • low-cost server

Hackathon: IoT home platform

Goal of this hackathon or student work is to establish a low-cost IoT gateway, first of all controlling the power from the solar panel, charging of battery, and priority of attached devices. Current low-cost solar regulators have no Internet connectivity, thus remote configuration and assistance is not possible.

The goal of the implementation would include:

  • a solar charge regulator for panels up to 1000 W
  • communication interface, typically Ethernet or Wifi based
  • controlling of produced energy, consumed energy (e.g. USB), batteri status
  • interface towards IoT devices, e.g. controlling other IoT devices

Both hackathons are done in collaboration with industry (Eye Networks, Witelcom, IPXextenso), the Partners of Partners of DigI, and the University of Oslo.

Women’s Hackathon

Goal of this hackathon is showcasing the talents of women and girls in coding and software development, and encouraging them to become involved in the world of technology through the creation of solutions using technology. This hackathon is expected to attract women in Africa who are already in a technology-related field, and who are helping other women. The goals of this hackathon are:

  • coming up with solutions affecting societal problems and women today in Africa. Solutions such as: inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG 4), including girls development, women’s health, and assisting rural women to upskill.
  • one day “Digital media literacy” workshops on the following topics: 1) Bridging the gender divide on the internet, 2) How to use social media to address digital inequality, 3) education and leadership for girls and women.
  • helping women and girls in science.

 Contacts

If you have an idea on whom to include, how to involve, please help and contact me or Prof. Josef Noll, Department of Technology Systems (ITS), University of Oslo

 

free access to basic information & internet for all!

basicInternetFor those not familiar yet, this summer I started to work for the Basic Internet Foundation, based in Norway. Foundation is an organisation that aims at optimised content delivery on capacity-limited networks, and offers free access to low capacity Internet as a carrier of digital content to people in areas with low admission and / or no Internet coverage. Also, it assists organisations and companies to adapt and disseminate information for the affected recipients should be able to help themselves. Assistance may include educational systems, healthcare, agriculture information, innovation, research and development, banking or other services that contribute to increased welfare and value creation to benefit the population in the respective areas.

The Foundation was established in December 2014 as a collaboration between The University Graduate Centre (UNIK) and Kjeller Innovasjon AS. The impact of Basic Internet for the Digital Society is seen as a continuation of Internet deployment from Kjeller, starting with the Arpanet deployment in 1973, and with Opera Software in 1994.

One of our latest missions is free Information Internet (InfoInternet) that addresses Digital Inclusion  (following the Sustainability Development Goals – SDG 2030), and enables digital access to vulnerable areas worldwide (Africa, India, etc.), and thus contributing to bridging the digital divides. The major InfoInternet principles include:

  • Free access to all content being text and pictures, paid access to high-bandwidth services
  • All the Internet, without favouring or blocking particular products or websites (respecting net neutrality)

More about InfoInternet, you can read here. Basic Internet Access for all is the vision of the Foundation. If you’re interested and want to contribute to a world of free access to basic information on health care, education or development, join our quest to make this vision a reality!

And follow the Basic Internet Foundation on Twitter!

The best dissertation award

I know this is rather a bit tardy to announce (read: a dynamic period over here), however, last month I won an award for the best dissertation in 2015! I won few awards before (once for the best short story in the literature and one for the ICTs contribution at theFaculty of Engineering), and this one I didn’t expect to get. Apart from any public recognitions, I am always aware of the value of my own work, on the amount of time and energy I put into it and to get things done in the best possible manner. To be honest, I was hoping not to get it, how silly :)? Of course, it is a great honour and I am very glad that Serbian Public Relations Association (DSOJ) and the jury recognized the relevance of my research (ICTs in education, examining the internet dynamics and digital inequalities, etc.). I want to thank to Serbian Public Relations Association and the jury of DSOJ. Here is the PhD in Serbian; sorry folks, those who want to translate it into English, please do ping me. I’m overly saturated with own manuscript.

This is a citation reference:

Radovanović, Danica. Uticaj internet zajednica na komunikaciono – društvene procese u umreženom okruženju. Doktorat, Fakultet tehničkih nauka, Univerzitet u Novom Sadu, 2015.

The program for #Microposts2016 at #WWW2016 is out!

www2016The final program for the workshop at the 25th International World Wide Web conference is ready. We’ll be in Room 520F, see you in Montreal!

SESSION I

9:00 – 9:20 Welcome & Introduction
9:20 – 10:20 Invited Talk – Mihajlo Grbovic (Yahoo Labs)
10:20 – 10:30 Lightning Round – Posters
10:30 – 11:00 Tea Break with Posters (Room 517AB – Tradeshow Area)

 

SESSION II

11:00 – 12:00 Main Track Presentations
12:00 – 12:30 Social Sciences Track Presentations
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch Break

SESSION III

14:00 – 14:30 Social Sciences Track Presentations
14:30 – 14:45 NEEL Challenge Sponsor presentation
14:45 – 15:30 NEEL Challenge Presentations
15:30 – 16:00 Tea Break with Posters (Room 517AB – Tradeshow Area)

SESSION IV

16:00 – 16:30 Poster Session
16:30 – 16:45 NEEL Challenge Results
16:45 – 17:00 Awards and Closing

Session I  –  9:00  –  11:00    Invited Talk & Poster Presentations

9:00 – 9:20 Welcome & Introduction
9:20 – 10:20 Invited Talk – Mihajlo Grbovic (Yahoo Labs)

  • Leveraging Blogging Activity on Tumblr to Infer Demographics and Interests of Users for Advertising Purposes
    Mihajlo Grbovic, Vladan Radosavljevic and Nemanja Djuric

10:20 – 10:30 Lightning Round – Posters Continue reading “The program for #Microposts2016 at #WWW2016 is out!”

Call For Papers: #Microposts2016 workshop @www2016ca

microposts_logo2016
As an Organising Committee Chair of the Microposts 2016 workshop at the 25th World Wide Web conference, I am inviting you to check out the  Call for papers and contribute with your expertise and research. The workshop is interdiscipinary and gathers academics and professionals from the Computational Sciences and Social/Web Science studies. Also, have in mind that we will have a best SocSci paper award. For more information, please visit this page.

What are Microposts?

Microposts – “information published on the Web that is small in size and requires minimal effort to publish” – remain a popular means for communicating information. Microposts include tweets (using plain text or with embedded links and objects); social network endorsement using Instagram hearts; check-ins via Facebook and Foursquare, pins on Pinterest; links to brief, pre-recorded and streaming video via Snapchat and Meerkat. Microblogging apps for the ubiquitous smartphone and other small, personal devices, which support capturing photos and short videos, allow these to accompany text or serve in themselves as the Micropost.

#Microposts2016 will focus on topics including, but not exclusive to, the three areas below:

MAKING SENSE/UNDERSTAND – focusing on the human in Micropost data generation and analysis, we encourage submissions that look at understanding how situation and context drive individual and Continue reading “Call For Papers: #Microposts2016 workshop @www2016ca”