Germany launches online software knowledge exchange

In an attempt to improve its competitiveness in the world software market, Germany is inaugurating an online knowledge exchange, under the leadership of the renowned Fraunhofer Society (Fraunhofer Gesellschaft e.V.), an umbrella organization for scientific research institutes.

The Virtual Competence Center for Software Engineering (known by its German initials ViSEK) was launched Thursday at the University of Kaiserslautern, Fraunhofer said in a statement.

ViSEK, funded with 12 million marks (US$5.5 million) of money from the government's auction of UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) licenses, aims to make software know-how easily available to some 20,000 German companies involved in software development.

The initiative is meant to address deficits in German software quality, such as the frequent failure to follow norms set by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the society said, referring to a study carried out last year at the behest of the country's education and research ministry. The study found that only 30 percent of German software companies follow engineering-quality standards. But high-quality software is increasingly vital in many branches of the economy, from the automotive industry, to medicine, to banking, Fraunhofer said.

The six partner groups in ViSEK -- five Fraunhofer IT research institutes, two in Berlin, and the others in St. Augustin, Kaiserslautern, and Karlsruhe, as well as the institute for computer science at the University of Munich -- will share their software engineering knowledge via the Internet site

"The contents will be structured in the form of knowledge building blocks, logically networked, and made available to professional users over a Web portal," Fraunhofer said. "By this means, simple and quick access to technical knowledge, practical experience, typical application areas, or contact with experts will be possible."

The content and structure of the portal are expected to be defined by the end of this year, and "knowledge building blocks" in areas such as software quality control and electronic business applications are to be completed during 2002.

Public funding of ViSEK is scheduled to run out at the end of 2003, after which it is hoped that contributions from members and partners will pay for the portal.

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