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FAPESP, Microsoft Award Approximately $500,000 in Academic Funding to Advance Research in Health, Education, Agribusiness and e-Government


Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), also known as the State of São Paulo Research Foundation, and Microsoft Research today announced recipients of approximately $500,000 (U.S.) in funding for academic research focusing on how technology can meet the social and economic challenges of rural and urban communities in Brazil. The five winners represent the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Campinas, IME in São Paulo and University of São Paulo (USP) in São Carlos.

The selected projects propose creative and multidisciplinary approaches for advancement in the areas of computer science, health and agrarian sciences, computer engineering and linguistics. In addition, these research projects are tied together by the thread of social impact, aiming to bring about change in their associated disciplines.

“By supporting these scientific undertakings, we hope to encourage Brazilian researchers to continue doing high-quality research in these disciplines, while addressing some of the social and economic issues of the region,” said Michael Levy, president of Microsoft Brazil. “Microsoft invests deeply in academic research, and these projects bring us one step closer to consolidating our country as an IT research platform.”

The selection process was quite competitive, with at least two opinions from the advisory group for each proposal, including advisors of foreign research centers.

“The proposals we selected met the requirements of excellence in research, boldness and possible connection with applications, in addition to following the guidelines set in the RFP,” said Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director at FAPESP. “The challenge of bringing together quality science and groundbreaking applications was welcomed and understood by São Paulo’s scientific community. This is an important challenge for the field of research, locally as well as on the international level.”

The projects are part of a broader research initiative launched in April by Microsoft Research and FAPESP, known as the Microsoft Research–FAPESP Institute for IT Research. The goal of this collaborative research institute is to find solutions for complex technological problems such as the deployment of communication network infrastructures and the creation of intuitive interfaces, computers and other devices with low costs that can be used by low-income communities. Under the alliance, investments will total $800,000 (USD) —$400,000 of which will be financed by Microsoft and $400,000 by FAPESP. Through this undertaking, Microsoft Brazil, Microsoft Research and FAPESP hope to publish several research papers and create new intellectual property in addition to stimulating the involvement of higher education students in future research initiatives.

“By supporting these projects and through our continued alliance with FAPESP we hope to help Latin American researchers and scientists address some of the most difficult societal and technological challenges,” said Jaime Puente, senior program manager at Microsoft Research.

The following five projects have been selected to be supported by this collaborative effort:

E-Citizenship, systems and methods for the creation of a culture mediated by information and communication technologies. In partnership with the local government of the city of Campinas and coordinated by Maria Cecília Calani Baranauskas, a professor at the Computer Institute at UNICAMP, this project will seek new software design and development models with the intent of creating interfaces for the inclusion of illiterate people and those with special needs in e-government services.

E-Farms, a two-way road for small farms to the networked world. Coordinated by Claudia Maria Bauzer Medeiros, a professor at the Computer Institute at UNICAMP, this project is a cooperation between the computer and agrarian sciences and has two major objectives: to investigate alternatives for the wireless, electronic, low-cost communications among rural areas with poor infrastructures, and the development of models and methods for the management of data detected by ground sensors and satellites to support the agricultural planning of small farmers and agricultural cooperatives.

SimplePortuguese, textual simplification of Portuguese for digital inclusion and accessibility. This project is in a new research area in the country called Processamento da Língua Natural (PLN), also known as Natural Language Processing. It is coordinated by Sandra Maria Aluisio, a professor at the Institute of Math and Computer Sciences at USP in São Carlos. The objective is to create software programs to simplify Internet content and make the comprehension of text easier for people with special needs, children who are learning to write, and functional illiterates. The research also includes a second part focused on allowing authors to simplify or revise what they publish on the Internet.

Project Butterfly, integrated mobile computer system for the providing of home- care services. This project aims at developing a prototype based on intelligent mobile phones (project digital assistants, or PDAs) to computerize and expedite Projeto de Assistencia Domiciliar (Home Care Program developed by Sao Paulo City Hall, or PAD) of the public health system. Doctors and nurses will have the patients’ medical records updated and accessible and will be able to take pictures of lesions, to have access to remote pre-diagnosis, and to follow up on patients’ clinical condition. The system will also allow caretakers who look after patients on a daily basis to receive messages via their mobile phones. The project is coordinated by Fabio Kon, a professor at the Institute of Math and Statistics at USP.

X-gov, application of the cross-media concept in e-public services. The cross-media concept applied to governmental services is the objective of the survey coordinated by Lucia Vilela Leite Filgueiras, a professor at the Escola Politécnica at USP. This project will result in software that will allow public managers to adjust the public service announcements they intend to provide electronically, allowing for their delivery through the Internet, mobile phone or interactive TV.

The funding announced today is part of Microsoft Research’s ongoing collaboration with academic, government and industry researchers worldwide to accelerate advances in science through computing, and move research in new directions across nearly every field of computer science, engineering and general science.


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