President Rumen Radev: Computer technologies are a huge responsibility

Photo: BTA

The John Atanasoff awards for achievements by Bulgarian researchers in the sphere of computer science is an initiative by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria going back 15 years, a demonstration that whatever their political beliefs and views, Bulgarian presidents share a vision – that Bulgarian science, achievements and causes for the public good should receive the unwavering support of the presidential institution.

The award is named after the renowned Bulgarian engineer of Bulgarian descent John Atanasoff, the man who helped create the first electronic computer. Just like young researchers in our day, he too was a pioneer, blazing a trail into a new world without any clear idea where it would lead. And John Atanasoff did change the world. But back then it took a long time for any change to be felt, whereas now technologies are moving ahead at a blink-and-you-miss-it speed. According to the rules, there is one winner of the John Atanasoff award, with runners-up who receive a certificate of merit for debut breakthroughs in the sphere of computer technologies, for a project with a major public contribution, and for success at international Informatics Olympiads.

In his address at the ceremony, President Rumen Radev pointed to the large number of candidates this year and how difficult it was to single out the winners, adding:

“This gives us every reason to feel pride and hope because a good many of you work and study around the world, but wherever you may be – at institutes, research centres or departments - you do your job and your thoughts are with Bulgaria. You come back here with the fruit of your labours. Another thing I am impressed with is the social significance of your projects, because computer technologies and science are more than an engine of progress. Your work has increasingly been moulding our public relations, and that is a huge responsibility. Your projects are a contribution to the security and rapid processing of data, without which the functioning of any country is inconceivable, but also to education, health care, the environment and the development of e-government.”

Holder of the 2018 John Atanasoff award is 34-year old Dr. Petar Tsankov, who is doing a PhD at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. His work involves developing new methods for the automated protection of contemporary software systems, including smart contracts and personal data processing programmes, computer networks etc. The results of his research have led to the development of innovative systems widely applied in academia as well as in industry.

In the Outstanding Projects with Social Value-Added category three initiatives were awarded for their potential and successes in their drive to change, and most of all make some of our citizens’ duties easier, by offering various services. One such example is the so-called “open-source university”, helping the academic and career development of students, without national or institutional restrictions. The online platform CIVI which enables Bulgarian citizens to report, quickly and effortlessly, any urban environment problems such as problems involving road surfaces, was also awarded a certificate. The platform has 85,000 registered users to date, and more than 80,000 reports have been submitted. The third certificate in the category went to the project JAMBA, developed by Joana Koleva and Iva Tsolova in aid of a foundation providing persons with disabilities equal access to information, education and a career. How did this idea come about and how many people have helped so far? Joana Koleva:

“The idea for such a platform came into being two years ago. It is difficult to say how many ads there are because new ones are constantly appearing and old ones disappearing. By the time we finish the matching algorithms, the job-seekers and the employers have got in touch with us the standard way – by e-mail – so that we can do the preliminary data processing. That is a job that in due time will be performed by this algorithm. One of the things we are offering job-seekers, alongside career development, is training in various spheres, including IT. We have so far trained more than 100 people, of them 70 have got a job.”

English version: Milena Daynova

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