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I'm aware of three 'government linked data working groups' - that is, groups concerned with publishing government data as linked data.

W3C has one, co-chaired by Bernadette Hyland of 3 Round Stones and George Thomas of the US Environment Protection Agency. It does the kind of things you'd expect a working group in a standards body to do: it's working to fully standardise a number of vocabularies that are already in use in various government environments, as well as codifying best practice. Separately, the Australian government has established its own group - I believe as much as anything as a result of the fact that there simply is no sensible time of day when Australians, West Coast Americans and Europeans can all be on the phone at the same regular time - and just recently a new UK Government Linked Data WG has begun to get busy.

What do all these people do? Why do they need to get together in groups?

I attended the 'Opening the Doors' event that the UK group held recently. Most of the afternoon was taken up with short lightning talks - 5 mins each with a timer to get you off if you went on for too long - that set out how different people see the linked data landscape. Most talks, including my own, were essentially of the 'show and tell' variety but a slide from Steve Peters of the Department for Communities and Local Government I think sums up what government linked data is about.

Steve's LinkedData bucket list

(things to see and do before I retire)

  • Clear, measurable benefits for publishers and users

  • Effective engagement and partnerships within and between data publisher, innovator and end user communities

  • Strong governance: organised around domains not silos.

  • Visualisation and collaboration tools: reusable within government and third party services

  • Scalable, reusable data publishing tools

  • Bulletproof, fully maintained reference ontologies and data for all core building blocks

  • APIs, with good service management wrappers

  • Architectural patterns and standards for publishing and reusing multiple APIs and LinkedData resources

That's quite an ambitious list, nevertheless, it reflects the kind of aims that linked data advocates have in mind. It goes beyond the publishing of data in more or less any format as long as it's available so that people can see it if they want to, into data as a core part of the operation of government.

Notice the fourth bullet: Visualisation and collaboration tools, reusable within government and third party services. That's the area where Crossover comes in. Rather than seeing open data as a reporting mechanism, linked data is about making data an integral part of the way that government does its business. It's research, it's evidence-based policy making, it's connecting colleagues from different departments and at different levels of government.

From an ICT for governance and policy making perspective, that's the potential of linked data.
And I hope it won't be long before other governments set up their linked data working groups.

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