W3C eGov: Tom Steinberg of MySociety

Note: These are rough notes from the W3C Workshop on eGovernment and the Web.  It is being held in Washington DC on June 18th-19th.

The thesis is if you build user-focused services good information policy follows.

Its a small UK NGO called MySociety (mysociety.org).  It builds democratic Web sites.

There is the hansard which is the the printed parliamentary debates.  It is now online.  You can link to supplementary links and definitions.   You can make profiles for the members of parliament that lists their voting records, committee memberships, or how active they are.

Data reuse matters.  Information matters.  The best way to get officials to understand is to show them information about themselves which they check obsessively.

At FixMyStreet.com, it will show you what kind of problems are on your street that have been reported by other people.  The problems will be sent to appropriate local official.  This was made with a $10,000 government grant.

There is a good relationship with the government.  You’d think otherwise.   Governments are taught about how to do this.

Tom wrote a report on Information Policy.  There were 15 recommendations.  One was the importance of information sharing and reuse.  There are great tools that are out there to do this.

Most charging regimes for public sector data were created pre-Semantic Web.

MySociety is working on letting more people be aware of the small neighborhood e-mail mailing lists.

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W3C eGov: Tim Berners-Lee on “Widescale data integration: opportunities and challenges”

Note: These are rough notes from the W3C Workshop on eGovernment and the Web.  It is being held in Washington DC on June 18th-19th.

The value you get from the Web is re-use.  You put something on the Web because other people will find it useful for reasons that you don’t know.

You’re amazed at all the things that you’ll find on the Web that crazy people put out there.  You’d be amazed at all the ways your data gets re-used.  Sometimes its for a wide look at something or sometimes its for a very quick look.

At the Semantic Web level, you can ask questions that go across all the different stove pipes.

When you share data, its more reusable.  You should make the data available via accessible Web sites but also just as data.  Data will be merged with  other data from other places.  Re-use may well outstrip the primary use.

If we want wider re-use, we have to talk to the wider community.  It takes effort.

Semantic Web is the first technology that understands that there are different ontologies between organizations.  The two ontologies can be wired together and be treated as if they’re the same.

Data Owners Should

  1. Take inventory
  2. Decide Priorities
  3. Look for existing ontologies
  4. Don’t change the way the data is managed
  5. Set up standard (RDF, SPARQL) portals onto existing data
  6. Where necessary, adapt or write new ontology bits.

We should always use open standards, regardless of whether or not it will be public.

If we use linked data, we can reference other people’s data systems and make our systems become more useful.

Well we need to track where we got our data from.  We need to track what the acceptable uses are and what the licenses are.

Next steps… we need to make our data Semantic Web standards compliant. There is a list on the ESW wiki of linked data.  We shouldn’t be upset existing systems.  Don’t make ontologies unless you have to.  Allow for re-use and transparency.

(Tim Berners-Lee’s slides from this talk are available online)

W3C eGov: Carol Tullo on “Unlocking the Power of Public Sector Information”

Note: These are rough notes from the W3C Workshop on eGovernment and the Web.  It is being held in Washington DC on June 18th-19th.

Goal is to give a wider policy context of the topics that will covered over the next two days.

It’s about “unlocking the potential.”  It’s not just about the content.  It’s about the economic and social value of the information.  The value is beyond its inherent value.  It’s the value of it being used.  We need an approach that recognizes the potential.

In UK, producing public sector information is about 40% of the GDP.  Geographic information underpins a lot economic activity.

It’s much harder to asses the social and economic value.

Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg laid out a vision “… that citizens, consumers, and government can create, re-use and distribute information in ways that add maximum value.”

There are many complexities with working in government.  The awareness of all the potentials and values may not be there because we work in silos, departments, and agencies.

There is a lot of risk with transparency.  Be aware that unless we push the boundaries, we’ll never be able to grow. There is also a lack of incentive in government to share information.

With Web 2.0, the Web is becoming a 2-way medium.  There is a data aspect, communities being formed, and user generated content.   We have to understand that is constantly evolving and accelerating.

A senior UK government official on his own initiative put some films on YouTube.  These were the first UK government films on YouTube.  They created more interest in what the Office of Public Sector Information was doing than the last 10 years of marketing work.

No matter what country you’re in, we all share the same aims.

We have an evolving landscape.  We need to engage in partnerships with the user-led communities.  It’s hard to find the right vehicle but thats what experimentation is for.

How can civil servants best participate in the new media and the new focus?

The Web is allowing for the re-use to information in exciting ways.  There is a synergy among lots of partners.  There is a confidence and trust that no one is breaching anyone’s rights.  Rights expressions is a big deal.  Semantic Web has huge potential to overcome some of the format problems.

The UK is working hard to not just use new technologies but to set policies in place.

There are departments where there business is to produce data.  There are also agencies and departments who have data as a by-product of their activities.  People need to understand how important their data is and what it can be used for.

How do we gain traction with these  new policies and strategies?

To make all of this happen, we all have to interact.

Government embracing citizens complex needs, encouraging information re-use and exploitation, and enabling easy to create, easy to find, easy to use government, parliamentary, and public sector information.

Starting to Plan BarCampWashingtonDC

Jason, Jackson, and I have decided to kick off planning for BarCampWashingtonDC. I had so much fun organizing and attending BarCampRochester. I’m excited to help bring the unconference to the Washington DC metro area.

For those of you unfamiliar with BarCamp, it is a gathering of Web developers, programmers, marketers, managers, designers, social media, and new media professionals to exchange their ideas and thoughts about the projects that they are working on.

Its not like the normal conference. It is the unconference. Everyone who attends participates. It’s not structured.

Are you interested in participating, organizing, sponsoring, or hosting the event?

Sign up on the BarCampWashingtonDC wiki.