Linked data, linked open data and open government data are some of the buzz phrases associated with the web 2.0 and the semantic web. The term describes a way of exposing, sharing, and connecting data via dereferenceable URIs.
“Open Knowledge” can be any information or content that is free for people to use, re-use and distribute and there are no legal, social or technological restrictions. This means freedom to access, to distribute and to re-use without any restriction based on one’s nationality or if the data will be used privately or commercially.
Tim Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web and founder of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has outlined some factors for the implementation of linked data. One of the main aspects is the use of URIs to identify things. These things can be looked up through HTTP URIs and useful information is provided by a shared, machine-readable format such as RDF/XML. Furthermore, information is enriched through links to related URIs.
Tim Berners-Lee outlines the importance of “relations” between things rather than just basic facts like age, height or place of birth. Things that have relationships are connected to other things they are related to by giving it one of those names staring with HTTP, as all conceptual things must have names that start with HTTP.
The Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) offers the possibility to retrieve data and use in new and innovative online applications. This service is thought to improve citizen service; enhance collaboration between government agencies and private organizations and to increase transparency of government data. This is a new approach, quite the opposite of “locking away information in a secure safe” and involves a revolutionary philosophy of providing and sharing data.
Data, as a cloud-based collection of software assets, is offered to citizen developers to build innovative applications, visualizations and mash-ups that empower citizens with improved access to government information. Government agencies are asked to submit their data as to put this data in citizens’ hands in a new, convenient, and helpful way.
U.K. and U.S. are at the forefront of providing open data, but slowly the rest of the world is catching up. Berlin has asked its citizen in September and October this year what kind of data they would like to see published, and EU project LOD2 has started a survey on November 8th to narrow down indicators for the implementation of linked open data on survey.lod2.eu
Some services available today are “Where Does My Money Go?” There one can find out where UK public finance goes with this open-source, embeddable web application. Data can be explored using maps, timelines, and best of breed visualization technologies. CKAN is another service and works as a catalogue system for datasets or other “knowledge” resources. CKAN aims to make it easy to find, share and reuse open content and data, especially in ways that are machine automatable.
“Reegle” is also at the forefront of this development, having launched data.reegle.info already and working towards becoming a key contributer in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Over the last century’s knowledge and information has slowly been shifted from only having a few in the know to giving more and more people the chance to get the information they want. A major step was the invention of book-printing, then the fact that more people were able to read, the open access to universities and, more recently, the onset of the internet. Linked Open Data is the next step along those lines, offering many opportunities and hopefully being implemented in a major way soon.