Newsblast Volume 5 Issue 5

#NetworkScience

In the current issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast Yuliya Tushchuk discusses a new project at the Network Science Center, the data set she is collecting, and explains some of the research questions she hopes to answer in, ‘Utilization of virtual battlefield simulations for effective military team performance.’ To learn more about this project, click here and read the full article in this issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast.

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NetSciEd Satellite Symposium at NetSci 2015

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This year a small but rapidly growing community of international network science researchers and educators met at the NetSciEd4 Satellite symposium, part of NetSci 2015 in Zaragoza Spain. DSCN4330The focus of this satellite was to explore how a network framework and network science concepts can be utilized to not only teach abstract concepts in the curriculum, but also be used as a bridge between STEM and non-STEM disciplines. The international group heard talks on successful programs bringing network science to middle school, high school, and undergraduate students in both the formal and informal educational arenas. DSCN4320The conference also offered participants an opportunity to play with hands on demonstrations and continue working on the Network Literacy essential concepts initiative which has received international support and been translated into 6 languages so far with researchers volunteering to translate into three more languages. One of the organizers, Lori Sheetz from the Network Science Center, led the group in developing a list of ‘Explorations’ that educators could use to explore each concept. For more information on the Satellite, the Network Literacy project or network science education resources visit our NetSciEd website: https://sites.google.com/a/binghamton.edu/netscied/

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Whatever perceptions you have of Rwanda are wrong: Part 2

I recently spent a week in Kigali, Rwanda collecting data to support an ongoing Network Science Center at West Point Research project that is developing network models of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in developing markets. This is the second in series of posts documenting my experiences and findings.

While in Kigali, I first visited a recently established (2014) technology incubator and was hosted by Sara Leedom, the Managing Director of Inkomoko, a group that supports entrepreneurship in Rwanda and a think mentor, and Paul Soko, the incubator’s Managing Director. Sara is also a co-founder of the African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC). AEC is a network of accelerators and incubators and “now including two accelerators in Kigali, supporting over 100 entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in a wide range of industries, including agribusiness, retail, manufacturing, services, and ICT and was hired by Tigo, a leading mobile phone provider on the African continent to help grow the companies in think.

think is housed in the BHC House in Kigali’s Kacyiru neighborhood.

The view of Kigali from think

Millicom, which operates under the Tigo brand in Africa, is the initial investor behind think and is interested in identifying and supporting innovative tech start-ups that are creating digital solutions for Africa. Millicom believes that Rwanda provides a unique opportunity as a platform for technology startups due to its young and dynamic population as well as the significant government investment in the country’s ICT infrastructure.

Café Neo in Kacyiru

think operates under a more traditional incubator model. There is a competitive application process and selected start-ups received $15,000 in equity investment, and live in Kigali for a period of six months. While in residence, the teams have access to coaches, mentors, as well as resources and access to the Tigo customer base to test and refine their products. Additionally, the startups engage with other technical and business experts to work on creating scalable and market-ready products.

Inside the accelerator.

In October 2014, think selected the first two companies to join the incubator. The applicant pool included teams from more than 20 African nations and the winners were selected by a group of top tech investors. I was fortunate to meet with both teams.

The CEO of TorQue meets with Julienne Oyler, Founder & Executive Director of AEC.

The first is Cribpark from Nigeria. Cribpark offers an online marketplace platform for home design and architecture, and connects homeowners, who in many cases build their own home over an extended period of time, to an array of valuable goods and services. Cofounded by Dare O. Pius and Oaldapo Ayo, “the team is building a one-stop shop for African housing items for a local context.”

The second is TorQue from Rwanda. TorQue “delivers channel management software for wholesale distributors in the beverage and telecom industry.” The software is designed specifically to manage the entire distribution business with a focus on the local environment. Their model fits well across the entire African continent. TorQue was founded in Kigali by Jean de la Croix Niyotwagira and the company has recently gained the business of large-scale international beverage distributors, insurance companies, and telcos.

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Whatever perceptions you have of Rwanda are wrong: Part 1

I recently spent a week in Kigali, Rwanda collecting data to support an ongoing Network Science Center at West Point Research project that is developing network models of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in developing markets. This is an introduction to a series of posts documenting my experiences and findings.

The Kigali Skyline

If you ask a typical citizen in the US what they know about Rwanda, they will almost assuredly mention terrible ethnic violence and genocide. What most people don’t realize is those horrific events happened over 20 years ago and a lot has changed during that time.

What most in the Western World “think” when you mention Rwanda.Photo: UrbanTimes

What I found upon my arrival was vastly different than the majority of other economic capitals that I have visited in the developing world. I discovered an orderly and sparkling clean city with immaculately-maintained major streets, minimal trash, orderly traffic with modern traffic lights, very few begging children, and almost no aggressive vendors. The average citizen of Kigali seems busy conducting business and the city is seeing an amazing increase in foreign investment.

What Kigali looks like: clean street, manicured parks, enforced helmet laws.

Manicured Boulevards maintained by an army of civil servants.

State of the art traffic lights in Kigali.

Of course, the government has it detractors. President Paul Kagame is viewed as both a hero and a villain. He led the Rwandan Patriotic Front forces out of exile in Uganda, which eventually drove out the extremist Hutu government and ended the genocide. Since that time he has ruled as a benevolent dictator. Kagame’s government reports that it has lifted over 1 million people out of poverty between 2008 and 2012, and that the country’s economy grew at a remarkable 8% rate during the global economic crisis. Foreign donors praise the government for their efficient and effective management of aid and also praise Kagame as a progressive leader. For example, he is applauded for his focus on gender equality in Rwandan society and in fact, women outnumber men in the Rwandan parliament. However, political critics of the government have been silenced and other government critics have been strong-armed away from lucrative contracts and benefits from aid programs. Basically, at this point in their history, Rwandans seem to be willing to trade some civil rights for this stability, security & economic growth.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Photo: BBC

The Rwandan government has developed a comprehensive plan called Vision 2020 that aims to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020. A major part of this plan is the development of the technology sector in the country. The remaining posts in this series will describe what I found as I immersed myself into the tech scene in the capital.

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Newsblast Volume 5 Issue 4

#NetworkScience

In the current issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast Luke Gerdes discusses the possible significance of correlations between youth gangs and social media in ‘Exploring Crime and Social Media’. To learn more about this project, click here and read the full article in this issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast.

 

 

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Big Data Fest In New York City

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The Network Science Center at West Point (NSC) was a key sponsor and participant for the first Big Data Fest held in New York City on 28 March. ‘The term “Big Data” is frequently used to describe everything from how social media are used to gather information about consumers, to how data affect political, environmental and economic decision-making, to data that address security and health concerns. Yet although we might know that Big Data affects our daily lives, its exact nature – what Big Data is, and how it works – remains a mystery to most of us’ (from website).

 

CDT Matt Shockley guides a group through how to use ShockNet, the app he is developing for the NSC. The app will be a tool used to introduce network components and ideas. CDTs Mason Adams, Lewis Black, Jake Moffatt, Kraig Sheetz, and Raoul Valencia explained this and two other hands on activities to visitors.

Six cadets and two faculty members participated in Big Data Fest by offering three activities: A hands-on Konigsberg bridge activity introducing the foundation of network science – Graph Theory; building a small scale network to look at basic components and properties of networks using ShockNet, a cadet developed iPad app; and visualizing individual ego networks as a means to discuss structures commonly found in social networks. This outreach opportunity gave cadets involved in network science projects and the Social Network Analysis Club (SNAC) a chance to introduce and discuss network science to the broader community. Over a thousand people of all ages attended Big Data Fest, the first of its kind. Fernando Maymi from the Army Cyber Institute gave a talk on ‘Oh the places your data will go’ , a discussion of data security. Other participating organizations included MIT’s Media Lab, Rutgers University, Data Driven Detroit, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Sloan Digital Sky Survey, NYU, and the Beacon Institute.

 

 

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CompleNet 2015

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25-27 March 2015 the Network Science Center at West Point (NSC) co-hosted the 2015 International Workshop on Complex Networks (CompleNet) at the New York Hall of Science. CompleNet is one of the three largest conferences on network science held worldwide and brings together researchers and practitioners to share their publications and work in this fast growing field of study. Complex networks are becoming pervasive in many fields of science, from biological systems to computer science, and from economic to social systems. To learn more on current areas of research, NSC took 19 cadets down to NYC to attend one day of the three day conference along with 8 faculty members and researchers.

Cadets Astrid Colon-Moreno, CDT Eric Warren, CDT Sooji Park, CDT Dajah Davis, and CDT Adam Tapia attended CompleNet as part of their course, MA490 (Applied Problems from Math, Science, and Engineering) with Dr. Chris Arney. CDTs Sooji Park and Adam Tapia are also part of the Social Network Analysis Club (SNAC), a club started in 2011 that meets every Monday during lunch to share knowledge on Network Science and work on problems. The conference offered cadets an opportunity to speak with many prominent researchers including Mark Newman, Reka Albert, Cesar Hidalgo, Arun Sundararajan, Albert-László Barabási.

Kathryn Coronges delivers her keynote address titled “Structures of influence: Formal and Informal Leadership Dynamics.” Dr. Coronges is a Research Fellow at the Network Science Center and a Program Manager at the Army Research Office. Her research explores the effects of social and organizational network structures of groups (from teams to societies) on communication patterns and performance outcomes. She was selected by the committee to be a keynote speaker contributing a social sciences perspective on network science, and in particular, team dynamics. Chris Arney, Kate Coronges, Dan Evans, and Lori Sheetz also presented research: ‘Categorical framework for complex organizational networks: understanding the effects of types, size, layers, dynamics and dimensions’, ‘Developing and analyzing entrepreneur networks: an analysis of the tech entrepreneurial ecosystem of six African cities’, and ‘Netsci High: bringing network science research to high schools’. CDT Adam Reynolds leads a group discussion on the best ways to visualize and analyze a network. One thing unique to this conference is that in conjunction with the conference, the organizers hold a juried art exhibition.

 

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Newsblast Volume 5 Issue 3

#NetworkScience

In the current issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast Jeffrey Julum discusses the idea of an ungoverned space and why it is important to have tools such as network science to begin to understand them.  To learn more about the newest NSC project, click here and  read the article in this issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast.

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Network Science at IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference

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On Saturday, 7 March, Lori Sheetz presented at the IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference held at Princeton University. The purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity to share cutting-edge research and experiences with integrated approaches to the study of science, math, and technology through experiences and activities based in engineering and other design disciplines. Her presentation on, ‘Professional Development for Network Science as a Multi-disciplinary Curriculum Tool’ generated a lot of conversation and positive comments providing an opportunity to broaden awareness of the field of network science and its application to curriculum as early as high school.

The conference also organized a poster session for high school and undergraduate students to share some of their research. Through NetSci High the Network Science Center at West Point has mentored teams of high school students doing network science research for three years. Three NetSci High student teams had posters accepted to be presented at the conference. This experience was very beneficial to the high school students who are in the process of applying for scholarships and admission to college. It also brought great exposure to West Point and the Network Science Center for some of the cutting-edge work they have done in the field of network science education at this level.

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#NetworkScience and Ungoverned Spaces, Part 3

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Jeff Julum, Network Science Center Research Fellow

Ungoverned spaces are complicated and difficult to understand.  Many of the various entities that compete to fill the power vacuum of that space are usually trying to conceal their identities, structures and relationships.  Even the ones who aren’t may have conflicting facades, such as undercover police and criminal “snitches”.  The US military and intelligence community has routinely faced this intricate challenge over the last decade and a half.  From the horn of Africa to the streets of Peshawar, they had to sift through the mounds of data to ascertain the “ground truth”.   Differing languages and cultural norms only exacerbated the situation.

“Old School” Police Link Diagram

One of the key tools they developed to attack this challenge is network analysis. Network analysis has been around a long time.  In some old movies or history programs one can see scenes of photographs and string depicting the connections.  From its simple beginnings, network analysis has become an incredibly powerful tool in understanding the complexity of anything from a battlespace to an emerging market.

By carefully examining the organizations, influential people, and other actors and the linkages between them, we can make sense of the “control” of an ungoverned space.  For example, let’s say we have slum outside of Tegucigalpa contested by two rival gangs and various government agencies.  Using a more traditional approach, you could measure the power of the players and their interconnecting roles if any to estimate who could exert more power and at what times.  You could even do some predictive analysis to create a strategy for the police to exploit the rivalry.

Honduran Soldiers looking for Gang Tattoos

Now we discover in this same example, that the police have little to no influence and the gangs have even cooperated to provide some social services to the populace to keep them on their side.  Only by taking a deeper look at the networking would we discover that they had attended a large and influential church and the priest of that church had influence over those to rival leaders – a linkage that enabled a pattern of cooperation not expected in a traditional model!

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