A couple of months ago I was asked by somebody at the Global South Forum to give a talk about some technology related topic. My initial idea was to talk about Taarifa but after some thought I decided to open it up more and talk about the wider ICT4D field. In particular related to my own experiences and assumptions.
I have been wrestling with the whole concept of ICT4D for some time and thought it would be a good opportunity to engage with “the experts”.
My slides are below. Though they contain very little text the narrative should be clear from the pictures. As background reading I strongly suggest Can Technology end Poverty from Kentaro Toyama and The Subtle Condescension of “ICT4D” by Erik Hersman.
Some months ago I attended the 2012 Collaborations workshop in Oxford, something which I blogged about in my post The Researcher Programmer, a New Species?.
This then triggered some discussion on the LinkedIn group for scientific software engineering, and that eventually led to a collaborative paper, presented at this weeks Digital Research Conference, also in Oxford.
I didn’t find a link to any kind of proceedings and in the interest of the discussion thought I would reproduce the paper here.
I realized I never really blogged about this, but the tools I put together were used to design another airframe. The mission was initially quite secretive but now I can reveal that we were working together with the BBC to develop a UAV that could be used to provide footage at the Olympics. As added bonus the Blue Peter show would be involved as well and run a competition to name the aircraft and provide a colorful design.
In my day job Im lucky and happy to be working on cool UAV technology for civilian applications, in particular our research focus is on search and rescue. While Im still not totally clear about what I want to do beyond my current contract I have always had an interest in helping to tackle humanitarian problems through engineering and technology (e.g., my recent RHOK event attendances). I was born in Burundi and grew up in various countries around East Africa. Experiences that have definitely left their mark and part of the reason I am writing this post.
One of the greatest things about this job is that a couple times every year we head out to the airfield and test if the aircraft (a UAV) we have been working on will fly. Below two videos shot a couple of days ago. The civilian mission it will be used for is still hush-hush but it flew beautifully 🙂
Note the gimbal camera under the nose (orange dome) which can automatically lock onto a given object while flying.
Update: There has been some good discussion on this post at the LinkedIn group on Scientific Software Development and Management. See also the papers by Victoria Stodden and the great complmentary article by Ilian Todorov.
Update 2: There is now a Part 2 to this post: The research software engineer.
Last week I attended the 2012 Collaborations Workshop at Queen’s College in Oxford. Organized by the Software Sustainability Institute its goal was to bring together software developers and researchers and relect upon how both groups interact and if anything needs to be changed.
I only found out about the two day workshop and the existence of the SSI a few weeks before but immediately signed up. It was the first time I attended a conference so relevant to my own position and work. There were about 50 attendees, all in a similar position: PhD degree, working in academia or research lab, strong computational/software skills and working closely with researchers from at least one other scientific field (with a strong representation from biology/chemistry).
The conference went very smoothly, expertly managed and organized by Simon Hettrick and Neil Chue Hong. There were hardly any conventional talks, rather lightning talks and a whole series of break-out sessions which resulted in a lot of interesting discussions. One of the fundamental problems that kept coming up was the problem of defining ourselves as a group. What kind of species were we?
A few months ago an email was sent out to all researchers here at the university to solicit volunteers to give lectures/workshops for visiting secondary schools, the TEAtime lectures. As I always enjoy this kind of outreach I volunteered, went through some info sessions and did my lecture yesterday. Basically I gave an overview of UAV technology and did a simplified walk through of the aircraft design process. It was a bit ironic though, a computer scientist explaining airflow and aerodynamics :). No slides on slideshare as they’re too big to upload and Im to cheap to pay for PRO :).