European experts debate on Governmental Linked Data at the ICT 2010

The networking session on Governmental Linked Data held on 28 September at the “ICT 2010: Digitally Driven” event in Brussels, gathered around 150 European experts from administrations, industry, academia and civil society organizations in order to discuss how public access to government data can be improved, as a key issue for an open and transparent society.

Around 150 experts were present at the networking session on Governmental Linked Data with the aim to establish a forum for networking and exchanging ideas with regard to publishing and linking governmental data.

During the debate opened by Sören Auer from the University of Leipzig, panellists and members of the audience pointed out that in many occasions the difficulties to reuse public data go far beyond the technical ones, and highlighted that a shift in governmental procedures would be welcomed in order to make things progress. Jose Maria Alonso, from Fundación CTIC, underlined the fact that only four Governmental Linked Data catalogues are currently available in the world, also highlighting that despite the time burden for open data modelling, it is an effort worth to take as it makes it much easier for later reuse of these data. He concluded by suggesting that the priority should be to make raw data available first, and improve them later with Linked Data technologies.

Jonathan Gray, from the Open Knowledge Foundation, gave an overview of the state of the art on Governmental data in Europe. Gray pointed out that European Open Data movement could benefit from many experiences and good practices developed by the Open Source community throughout last ten years.

The way public administration usually work, with top-down approaches does not seem to be the appropriate one in order to gain results, as highlighted by Jeni Tennison. Furthermore, trust and accuracy are frequent concerns on governmental data. Tennison concluded that transparency and openness is not achieved only by releasing data, Governments must also be aware that publication has to be done in an appropriate way.

This session, which is thematically relevant to a number of pillars within the Seventh Framework Programme as well as the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, has been proposed by IT professionals, scientists and government representatives organised as the Working Group on EU Open Data. Developments in linked data could help further integrate information published by regional, national and European public administrations.

Governmental Linked Data

The publishing of data produced by governments is a crucial step towards more openness, transparency and citizen involvement. Examples moving in that direction include the US' portal or the UK’s initiative. However, publishing data alone is not enough: the data should adhere to open standards, be machine readable and tightly interrelated with other information and facilitate reuse.

The semantic web activity has recently gained momentum with the widespread publishing and interlinking of data on the emerging Data Web. With a variety of corresponding methodologies, tools and techniques available, the Linked Data paradigm can serve as a powerful enabler for integrating data published by local, regional, national and European public administrations.