I spent the last few days in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It wasn´t a holiday trip at all, no – it was my first business trip to Africa.
The project I am working for is the “Nile Basin Initiative” (NBI). This partnership was initiated and is led by the riparian states of the Nile River (like Egypt, Ethiopia or Sudan to name just a few). The goal of the NBI is to develop this big, big river in a cooperative manner: The promotion of regional peace and security and the provision of substantial socioeconomic benefits are the most important visions.
For my personal career it was always important what I am working for, so this project is a great challenge and a huge opportunity. Our task is to provide a Web based Information System which will be the knowledge base for all participating stakeholders in the next few years. On top of our system a Decision Support System (DSS) will be implemented, which will help to understand the river system behaviour better and to evaluate alternative development and management schemes.
We spent two days for our initial workshop to discuss the system specification and it turned out quickly that the specialists at NBI are knowledgeable people. We focused not only on “typical” tasks like document management or full-text search but also on a well structured metadata layer on top of standards like Dublin Core. At the end it also turned out that some semantic web methods will be either implemented at the first stage or it is desirable at least for the next development phase. So a moderated search will be there at system´s first stage and later on an associative semantic search will be implemented.
After work was done I spent one day for looking around in Addis Ababa. I visited “Lucy” – the first known individual of partially human type. She lived in Ethiopia 3.2 Million years ago. When I saw her in the museum I thought: If Ethiopia is the cradle of human kind why shouldn´t be our project the cradle for an African Semantic Web, which also helps that the countries in that region start to understand each other a bit better?