This group of pages describe some of the projects that may be of interest to DLDC readers.
Included on this page are details of the "One Laptop Per Child" project and also an Inveneo ICT project in Uganda.
Croizat: Innovative Open-Source Software
On January 16, 2009, NGO Conservation International launched Croizat, an Innovative Open-Source Software to Map the Geographic Distribution of Animals and Plants The open-source software package for the analysis of geographic distribution of animals and plants was launched by Conservation International (CI) in Brazil. This innovative technology will help the scientific community identify priority areas for environmental conservation based on geographical patterns of species. Croizat uses a panbiogeographic approach, one of the main areas of research of biogeography, which is the study of the distribution of living creatures on our planet.
This picture shows the distribution of Zygodontomys rodents in northern South America represented as a track graph computed by Croizat (with satellite image background). The idea behind panbiogeography is that biotas, or the total of animals and plants in a particular area, evolve through geography barriers. "The panbiogeographic method in which this software is based views patterns of distribution of species as a fundamental aspect of biodiversity," says Croizat’s main developer, Mauro Cavalcanti, adding that the identification of these patterns help to single out areas that are both highly rich in species and historically important in terms of evolution and distribution of biotas. For José Maria Cardoso da Silva, Conservation International’s Vice-President for South American, this technological innovation is crucial to the identification and protection of areas rich in biodiversity. "By launching the Croizat, CI intends to disseminate scientific knowledge for free and to all the researchers in the field of environmental conservation," he said. "This is top-notch software that will contribute greatly to the planning of conservation actions."
The program is written in Python (www.python.org) – an interactive, object-oriented programming language – coupled with the portable, multi-platform wxPython interface management library, and other free external libraries also written in Python and C/C++ (NetworkX, PIL, NumPy, Matplotlib and its Basemap module). The Croizat is platform-independent, and should run on any PC compatible with x86 architecture, under GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and MS-Windows. Some key features:
- An easy-to-use, interactive Graphical User Interface (GUI), with pulldown menus, dialog boxes, and other standard GUI controls, with almost identical interfaces on GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Apple Macintosh personal computers.
- Data import in a variety of formats, including comma-delimited text and ESRI shapefiles.
- Locality records are displayed as symbols (squares, circles, crosses, etc) on the map, with different symbols for each species.
- Optional display of rivers and country boundaries.
- Zoom in and out on areas of interest.
- Maps can be saved as graphic files, or copied to the clipboard and pasted into other applications.
Aussie Farmer Gives Laptops a Field Test
I found this to be an interesting story published by the Sydney Morning Herald in my adopted country Australia:
From his hot, dusty, locust-plagued property in the NSW outback, a software engineer who goes by the name Quozl is doing his bit to help educate 1.5 billion of the world's poorest children. James Cameron has spent the past two years testing prototypes of a low-cost robust laptop called XO designed especially for children in developing countries. He devotes up to five hours a day to his volunteer work for the US charity One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which began mass producing the "green machines" in November.
Mr Cameron likens his efforts to missionary work - without the travel he so fears.
"I don't like flying. I'm just frightened of all the possible risks of visiting other countries. But I can do something from here."
Mr Cameron's farm near Tooraweenah - population 76, about 60 kilometres from Coonabarabran - was seen as an ideal testing ground because the conditions were similar to those in some Third World countries. Among the teething problems he identified in early XO versions was a battery that failed to charge when the temperature reached 45 degrees. He has also helped develop the free software used on the XOs. But his greatest contribution has been testing the range of the wireless connection between laptops on the long dirt roads and across the hills of Warrumbungle National Park, near his home. The XOs use a wireless mesh network that connects all laptops within range - without the need for infrastructure such as routers or cables - so children can collaborate on any computer activity.
The charity's vice-president of software engineering, Jim Gettys, was in Australia this month to give an update on the project to a conference of free-software developers. In recent weeks the first batch of 250,000 XOs has been sent to Peru, and charity staff have visited Mongolia to show teachers and students how to use the computers. Mr Gettys described some of the hurdles they had had to overcome - children's homes without electricity, low literacy rates, no knowledge of the internet in some communities and languages in which computer terminology has yet to be created.
The laptops have a hand-crank or a solar panel to power them, a screen that can be read in bright sunlight, sturdy handles and dust-resistant keyboards sized for children's fingers, and all the features of normal laptops - a camera and microphone, USB ports and game pad keys.
ICT Brings Ugandans together
Father Joseph Okumu on the use of Inveneo ICT and BOSCO systems to bring Ugandans together.