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Tracking World Hunger With Linked Data Service

By   /  October 11, 2012  /  No Comments

This week the United Nations revised its findings of three years ago that more than 1 billion people worldwide were going hungry. In its 2012 State of Food Insecurity in the World report, it revised its figures of undernourished people to closer to 870 million, about the same as it is today, according to reports.

The report actually presents new estimates of the number and proportion of undernourished people going back to 1990, finding that progress in reducing hunger has been more pronounced than previously believed – especially before 2007-2008.The revised results imply that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment in the developing world by 2015 is within reach, if appropriate actions are taken to reverse the slowdown since 2007–08,” the report states.

The U.N. isn’t the only organization tracking the state of global hunger, though. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) demo is a tool adapted and developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to comprehensively measure and track global hunger – and standing behind it is LODSPeaKr (Linked Open Data Simple Publishing Kit).

The LODSPeaKr project, a framework maintained by Alvaro Graves to create Linked Data applications and publish RDF data quickly and easily, is viewable on GitHub here. It is designed to be fast and simple to install for those who want to create services based on Linked Data, and flexible on what to show for each type of resource, while providing the possibility of creating a workflow of execution of SPARQL queries in multiple SPARQL endpoints, enabling a customizable interface for humans as well as for machines, and supporting content in multiple serializations (RDFa, RDF/XML, Turtle, N-Triples, RDFJSON) by default, according to information on its home site.

In addition to the Global Hunger Index demo, which shows integration of data from the GHI and DBpedia using LODSPeaKr, other applications based on LODSPeaKr include DocuSPeaKr, a system to publish documentation of an OWL ontology and DataFAQs – Linked Data Quality Reports, to provide automated, asynchronous feedback to publishers, curators, and consumers about different quality aspects of Linked Data, among others. Graves, a PhD student in Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute associated with the Tetherless World Constellation, also includes a demo app on RPI Centers’ funding to show data about sources behind several research centers there.

IFPRI’s published 2011 Global Hunger Index report actually showed that global hunger has declined since 1990, but not dramatically, and remains at a level characterized as “serious.” The 2012 report should be available next week.

At The Global Hunger Index Demo 2012 site, users can click on a country to view status on three factors contributing to the overall GHI – the prevalence of underweight children under age 5, the proportion of children dying before age five, and the proportion of the population that is undernourished – from 1990 through 2011 (where available). DBpedia sources the general facts about the country, and a hook to the GeoNames geographical database provides the geospatial semantic information perspective. (Not every country is represented, as the focus seems to be on those that are not First World countries.)

Wherever the data about hunger comes from though, one thing is certain. As Jose Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization at the U.N., told Reuters, the revised numbers add up to “better news than we have had in the past, but it still means that one person in every eight goes hungry. That is unacceptable, especially when we live in a world of plenty.”

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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