Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Open Government’ Category

“Semantic Web” Or “Web 3.0” Includes Open Data Linked By Meanings

by April 12th, 2010

At ReadWriteWeb, Richard MacManus notes that neither online “open data” on its own, or online “linked data” on its own, is terribly useful. The real holy grail is online data that is open and linked. When this becomes pervasive, knowledge seekers will be better able to quickly survey that slice of the landscape they want to view, and then drill down, aggregate or add on where they wish. This without the piecemeal hunting for reliable data groupings that’s caused partly by unsophisticated or non-existent reliability indicies, and also current Web search protocols which tend to be keyed to exact terms rather than intended meanings. Linkage of open data will occur through use of “meta-deta” or descriptive terms of data categories.

This will allow search engines to capture broader meanings that link data and data sets, and is one core component of what is being called “The Semantic Web,” or “Web 3.0.” But it will require far-reaching agreements among data-providers on “master category” descriptors and their thorough application to online data. It’s not going to happen overnight, but business, government and non-profits will all find it in their best interests to collaborate on strengthening the ties that should bind data and allow filtering by reliability.

The initial “relational” piece is fairly huge in terms of knowledge organization and utilization. In fact, one of the real inventors of the Internet, is making this a priority.

The British government has invested £30 million (US$45 million), in a research center to further develop Tim Berners-Lee‘s Semantic Web. The center, to be called the Institute for Web Science, will be run by Berners-Lee, who formulated the basic protocols for the Web, along with University of Southampton artificial intelligence professor Nigel Shadbolt…The Semantic Web is Berners-Lee’s vision for how the Web should evolve beyond its origins as a worldwide repository of human-readable hyperlinked documents…

By using linked data, machines should be able to make inferences and reason about data found they find the Web, without human intervention, in effect turning the Web into a worldwide database. Linked data relies on a number of still-emerging Web standards. One is RDF (the Resource Description Framework), which can link two disparate sources of data…Linked Data, a compendium of linked data sources, has counted over 13 million triples, or RDFs that connect two different sources of data, from 200 data sources.

Why is this so huge, potentially?

Gov 3.0 Has Entered The Building

by April 8th, 2010

By Michael Riedyk

…Web 3.0, built on the foundations of the Semantic Web, is not much of a replacement of Web 2.0, but, rather, an important addition. According to Wikipedia, the Semantic Web is “an evolving development of the World Wide Web in which the meaning (semantics) of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to “understand” and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the web content.”

….the development of the World Wide Web has four stages or quadrants plotted along two axes – Increasing Social Connectivity and Increasing Knowledge Connections and Reasoning.

The four stages are briefly described as the following:

  1. The Web (Web 1.0) – “Connects Information” – has minimal social connectivity and knowledge connections and reasoning, and uses such technology as file servers, search engines and person-to-person file sharing.
  2. The Social Web (Web 2.0) – “Connects People” – still has minimal knowledge connections and reasoning but increasing social connectivity, and consists of blogs, social networking, mash-ups and the like.
  3. The Semantic Web (Web 3.0) – “Connects Knowledge” – has some social connectivity but increasing knowledge connections and reasoning, and relies on artificial intelligence, thesauri and taxonomies, and bots.
  4. The Ubiquitous Web (Web 4.0) – “Connects Intelligence” – will have increasing knowledge connections and reasoning as well as incoming social connectivity, and will rely on new technologies like automatic intellectual property, semantic wikis and smart markets.

While Web 2.0 is all about people engaging in social networks, Web 3.0 is the actually same but for machines or software applications (apps). Lets call Web 3.0 the “Facebook for Apps”.

The problem with HTML is that it works great for people, but not so good for apps that want to collaborate on information. Therefore, the  World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Resource Description Framework (RDF), an XML standard that defines relations between data (sources), relations and its semantics (what it is).

For example, when you publish something about “New York”, we all know that it is about a city. But apps don’t know that, so they couldn’t use that information. RDF provides a format that adds metadata and explains, in this case, that “New York” is a city. Other apps that look for information on New York can now use all information related to that RDF file.

With the semantics web, the web transforms from a bunch of unstructured web pages and separate databases into ONE BIG DATABASE!

The impact of the semantic web is massive. Applications can search, filter and aggregate information for us, rather than spending hours behind Google to collect manually. Apps could even give you personalized advice based on your profile, location and real-time data that is available on the web somewhere.

Back to the New York example: if I was to click on the word “New York” in this text, I would instantly get a flightplan (based on my schedule), the best attractions to go to (based on the fact that I have a family of four), a list of hotels that fit my current budget and personal preferences, friends who will be around and suggestions for people to meet. Thus, an unlimited amount of information and databases that match my personal profile and interests, without spending hours behind Google.

When will this happen? It is actually happening now already. More and more databases are published online or accessible via API’s. We only need to wait until more organizations make their data available in RDF. Once that happens, the web starts transforming into one database and we can start building intelligent apps on top of that.

What does this all has to do with Government or Gov 3.0? Well, following the Web 3.0 definition,

Gov 3.0 kicks-off when Governments start publishing Open Data using the semantic web standards (RDF).

The recent Open Government directive in the US and in the UK expect governments to publish their databases online. Open Data will be the next big trend in Government all over the world. The Open Gov West event in Seattle I attended last week was an important milestone: what started as a small event for a few people grew into a big event with almost 200 attendees from all over the US. The main question was a call for standards.

I have an important message for everyone who attended and those who are currently working on Open Data projects:

Publish all of that Open Data in RDF format. Chances are, this time governments and Gov 3.0 will be the driving force behind Web 3.0!

And we are a step closer to the Ubiquitous Web.