Solid in low-resource environments. (master projects)

Hi forum!

I recently joined and wanted to share some things me and a fellow student are working on.
Me and @teodora are both Computer Science Master students at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
I am following the track Software Engineering & Green IT and Teodora is following the track Parallel computing.

For our master project, we were brainstorming together with our supervisor for potential research topics. Then we came up with the idea to do 2 master projects on Solid, as there was a call for more ideas and use cases and we are very interested in the project. Specifically, (since our supervisor is specialized in the research area of ICT for Development) we want to do research on the possibilities of Solid in low-resource environments like in Third-world countries.
The protocol documentation of Solid also states that the Ethical Web Principles are used for orientation, which we will try to support even further. The Global South is often forgotten and doesn’t have most resources and support to make use of new ideas created in first world countries and therefore the gap in between seems to increase by that.

The goal of this research is to include the Global South by researching how Solid can be taken advantage of there. This is done by coming up with new ideas and possibilities, possible barriers, designing a proof-of-concept, creating of a Solid app and deployment in a real world environment. In African countries like Nigeria and Burkina Faso, most people use mobile phones so adapting to these technologies will become a challenge.

One example project our supervisor is working on, is a project in Mali to connect farmers to potential buyers of their seeds. These countries are less up-to-date about data laws etc, and this data can be misused by others because it is personal data. Using Solid might provide a solution to this problem. But this is just one example to give some more food for thought.

It would be nice to start a general thread here with possible ideas, feedback or thoughts about this project. All comments, both negative and positive, are welcome!
Thanks for reading.

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Very cool! I’m not sure what’s appropriate and feasible for a Master project in your tracks, but one thing that comes to mind for me is that the Solid protocol is quite chatty, i.e. makes many HTTP requests. I’m not too attuned with the Global South, unfortunately, but I’ve heard that they’re mostly reliant on mobile data there, which makes this less than ideal.

So some things that might be worth looking into, depending on your interests and expertise, might be how to model data so as to minimise the number of requests, or maybe to minimise the payload of each request, or even just to determine which of those is more appropriate. Other approaches might look at how an offline-first approach would work in Solid and what challenges would arise there.

Anyway, just some thoughts that, even if they’re not entirely what you’re looking for, might at least inspire some other ideas :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the answer Vincent!

We have seen the amount of HTTP requests which we agree on is quite high, but maybe not of interest to us. An offline-first approach is also something we’ve been talking about because internet connections aren’t always steady in some places. Even electricity isn’t sometimes steady, so analyzing how power outages can be handled best could be interesting as well.

Some other ideas we’ve been thinking about:

  • some sort of raspberry pi infrastructure for setting up the server
  • the possibilities of managing your data through text messages
  • a buyer / seller platform to help farmers and others sell their product easily by connecting them with buyers
  • increasing usability because for technical illiterate people it might be hard to understand
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Hi everyone! My name is Teodora, I am working with @wkokgit on this project.

Hi @Vincent , thank you for sharing your thoughts on this and for pointing that out! I think in our case it’s important to keep an eye on it and see if we can improve it. I might come back to you with some questions on this, if you think you could help. Do you have any pointers to give right now?

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Great project! In addition to the kind of technical questions that @Vincent mentions, there are, of course, a number of cultural and social questions when people from one social context prepare tools for people from another social context. My off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts below may or may not apply to your particular projects, but I think need consideration in the long run.

In the best case, software projects will be designed, developed, and implemented by or in collaboration with people from the communities where the software will be deployed. A person from the community brings knowledge of the needs software can fulfill and of the best practices for ensuring the software is understandable by and likely to be adopted by the community.

In terms of Solid, this means that the aim is to spread Solid, not by giving it to recipients, but by co-creating it with partners.

One aspect of that is finding out how the strengths of Solid translate into something relevant to the local community. What do privacy, decentralization, control over data mean in local community terms? What community values does Solid provide?

Another aspect : the ontologies and terms should be derived from the local community. This is both a question of language and of categorization. A local community member might have very different ideas of what the basic entities and relationships are than a software developer in a distant land or from a different cultural context in the same land. So making an ontology locally relevant is more than adding some language qualifiers to properties and a translation of labels.

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Happy to answer questions if I can (and since you’re at the VU, if you’d prefer Dutch that works for me too), though I suggested them part because I don’t know that there are answers yet :slight_smile: Not sure what other pointers to give without specific questions though, sorry.

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Cool and interesting topic. Good luck

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Thanks Robert! :+1: