When we say that government information is going to be accessible, what do we mean? Does this mean that you can navigate a web site and find a fact or does it mean that large amounts of information can be analyzed, linked and queried? Only the latter provides citizens with the power to really understand the information, to “mash it up”, to be really informed. We have a vast amount of information, having to click through ...more »
When we say that government information is going to be accessible, what do we mean? Does this mean that you can navigate a web site and find a fact or does it mean that large amounts of information can be analyzed, linked and queried? Only the latter provides citizens with the power to really understand the information, to “mash it up”, to be really informed. We have a vast amount of information, having to click through web sites is not a practical way to analize it. To realize President Obama’s vision of transparent, participatory and collaborative government we need pervasive access to information.
The issue is that there are LOTS of ways to publish data and crossing the boundaries between the various data formats, query languages and access methods can be a daunting task. By having some pervasive way to publish information that can be linked, analyzed and queried across the internet is a necessary enabler.
The idea is that all government information should be published in a selected open and standard format with common web-service based access methods. While the selection of the standards should be evaluated, the “Open Linked Data”, or “Semantic Web” standards of the W3C should be strongly considered. This is a standard web-based data format that allows data of various kinds, vocabularies, sources, semantics and authors to be federated, queried and analyzed. It is based on the “Resource Description Framework” (RDF) – a very open and general way to publish data. There are existing standards as well as open source and commercial implementations of these technologies. An informative video is available here: Tim Berners-Lee: The next Web of open, linked data:
Publishing all information as open linked data does not preclude other formats – where there are accepted or more efficient mechanisms for some kind of information, the same information can also be made available via that mechanism. Technology already exists to have the same information available in multiple formats and expose existing information, say in a SQL DBMS, as open linked data.
The data published as open linked data should be very inclusive – everything from the safety ratings of nuclear reactors to the business process OMB uses to approve a budget to the vocabularies to define the data it’s self.
Information published in this way would not be used directly by a user, other open, government and commercial web sites would be able to consume this information and provide various views of it for citizens. Of course the publishing agency would also provide simple web pages to access the information. So “many flowers will bloom” to consume, analyze and present this data once it is made available by the government.
This idea relates to two others we posted – that we should Require all information delivered to the government to be delivered in open and standard formats to collect this information and that we should have a Global Architecture Integration Network Initiative to provide the backbone of standards, vocabularies and technologies to make it easy to publish, manage, relate and analyze this information regardless of source or format. While there are other good ideas posted about publishing information using standards, we felt that this specific subject was not presented and have therefore posted this new entry.
Linked data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linked_Data
Semantic web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_web
Global Architecture Integration Network Initiative - http://opengov.ideascale.com/akira/dtd/3887-4049
Require all information delivered to the government to be delivered in open and standard formats - http://opengov.ideascale.com/akira/dtd/4196-4049