This Saturday December 5, food enthusiasts of all kinds including hackers, urban farmers, restauranteurs, designers, and public figures, will come together to hack on open food system data as part of the International Open Data Hackathon Day.
I am thrilled to share that Dominic DiFranzo, one of the data.gov architects, will be joining us and kicking off the event with a talk about food ontology and the semantic web. He has also offered to help teams that choose to use the Linking Open Government Data (LOGD) interface. DiFranzo is a Ph.D. student in the Tetherless World Constellationprogram at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is part of Professor James Hendler‘s team that created the data.gov community portal and that are bringing Semantic Web technologies to open government data.
What is the Semantic Web?
According to the Semantic Web Website:
The Semantic Web is a Web of data. There is a lot of data we all use every day, and it’s not part of the Web. For example, I can see my bank statements on the web, and my photographs, and I can see my appointments in a calendar. But can I see my photos in a calendar to see what I was doing when I took them? Can I see bank statement lines in a calendar? Why not? Because we don’t have a web of data. Because data is controlled by applications, and each application keeps it to itself.
The vision of the Semantic Web is to extend principles of the Web from documents to data. Data should be accessed using the general Web architecture using, e.g., URI-s; data should be related to one another just as documents (or portions of documents) are already. This also means creation of a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries, to be processed automatically by tools as well as manually, including revealing possible new relationships among pieces of data.
The term was first coined by World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee.
Why is the government embracing Semantic Web technologies?
3 words: Transparency. Participation. Collaboration
President Obama is a major proponent of strengthening democracy through open government data. He believes that an open, accountable, participatory, and collaborative government is crucial for creating a more efficient and effective administration. In fact, the President signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government his first day in office.
In May 2009, data.gov, the central repository for government data, was launched with 47 data sets from across the government. Data.gov was created to improve access to Federal datasets, and to enable citizens to participate in government by using the data to create mashups, build web applications, and perform analyses.
In December 2009, the White House issued the Open Government Directive, which requires federal agencies to make important data available online, and to come up with plans for how to achieve transparency, participation, and collaboration.
This November, data.gov launched an online community where policy makers, technologists, and citizens worldwide can connect, share, comment, and learn about open government data and best practices.
The government is working with experts such as Professor James Hendler and DiFranzo to use Semantic Web technologies to fulfill the President’s mandate for a transparent and open government through linked data. The RPI team offers a number of wonderful resources such as demos and tutorials to help people learn how to engage with the data.
Check out some of the semantic applications featured on the data.gov blog to better understand how the data is already being used by the public to create valuable tools.
7 Other nations establishing open data
16 States now offering data sites
9 Cities in America with open data
236 New applications from Data.gov datasets
253 Data contacts in Federal Agencies
305,709 Datasets available on Data.gov