Proposed Definition for “Open Data”

Open Data is a philosophy and practice that makes data easily available in order to enable re-use of the data in new and unforeseen ways. Open Data relies on (1) a liberal licensing model that encourages re-use, (2) data discoverability and (3) data accessibility.

  1. Liberal licensing – enables third parties to re-use data with minimal or no legal or policy constraints. This may range from an open license but copyright is maintained (e.g. license encourages use, but copyright is retained by the Government of Canada) to copyleft approach of the Creative Commons initiative.
  2. Data discoverability – Given that data files can be numerous and may not be easily opened and viewed, it is important that data files are catalogued. Hence Open Data relies extensively on some form of metadata to catalogue the data.
  3. Data accessibility – The value proposition of open data is the more data is used the more valuable it is. Data accessibility options range from simply putting unenhanced “raw” data on the web to offering it in a wide variety of formats for diverse audiences requirements. Data needs to be in some format that enables reuse by programmers who develop new applications. Typically this is a structured XML format or equivalent. While web pages that summarize data in a tabular format allow for accessibility of data for the human eye, they are less useful for machine to machine application development and are not considered to not meet the criteria of “Open Data”.

In terms of Web 2.0, Open “Data is the Intel inside” that drives mashups and applications. Source: Tim O’Reilly, 2007.

The Four Panton Principles for Open Data in Science are worth consideration.


What is Gov 2.0? What could be Gov 5.0?

Gov 2.0 = Web 2.2 + Service-Oriented Architecture + Standards + OpenData + OpenLicenses

I find there are many perspectives as to what is Web 2.0 is, let alone what Gov 2.0 can be. In particular, Social Media and Web 2.0 seemed to be used interchangeably. For the Gov 2.0 vision to be a success we need to look beyond Social Media to meet our collective potential. This blog post attempts to concisely outline some commonly accepted definitions, proposes others and offer some personal opinions that I hope will spur debate. While not in the literature, I have arbitrarily added Web 2.1 and Web 2.2 to further classify some key concepts:

Web 1.0 – “Read web”, institutions publish information that people consume.

Web 2.0 – A read – write web or collaborative web or web as a platform. An institution can choose what ever balance of publishing and/or consuming to/from Web 2.0 that meets their business drivers; to provide value added to the organization and their clients or stakeholders. The Web 2.0 “sound bite” has provide a lightning rod for read/write processes and benefits, while other’s argue that it is simply an evolution of Web 1.0. Web 2.0 criteria are diverse and include; harnessing collective intelligence, data is the Intel inside, rich user experience, many devices (e.g. mobile devices), leverage the long tail, innovation in assembly (web as a platform, API, mashups, etc). Source: “Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices”, John Musser, O’Reilly Press ISBN 0-596-52769-1.

Web 2.1 – Web 2.0 powered by Structured Data. Much information in Web 1.0 (websites) and Web 2.0 is unstructured (Facebook, Chat) or loosely structured based on Folksonomies (Blogs, Photos, LinkedIn, etc.). Content is not categorized into known fields making it is difficult or impossible for computer to computer data or information exchange. With content encoded into an XML document according to a known schema (e.g. title or date), content is separated from presentation form. People are free to build their own applications harvesting data and information from numerous sources. Common implementations are RSS news feeds (in a structured XML file), that is then read by one’s preferred news reader or any other application that can read XML. More advanced integration can be done by connecting a variety of Application Programing Interfaces or Widgets programatically or through web-based Rapid Application Development tools including Yahoo! Pipes.

Web 2.2 – Geographic Web 2.0. The issue with the World Wide Web, is, well it is World Wide. People intuitively think and act spatially; often locally. Web 2.2 has made more explicit use of geography through map based mashups (Google Maps, Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, etc.), geographically encoded news feeds (GeoRSS), location based searches, cell phone GPS, geocoded Flicker photos and Twitter Tweets. Within the Web 2.x parlance there is literature on the GeoWeb stack, primarily by Andrew Turner. This is the tip of iceberg. The geographic information community is well established outside the Web 2.0 world with huge volumes of data, associated web services and standards. “The future web 2.0 internet operating system…will also provide access to data subsystems. The GeoWeb is perhaps the best developed and one of those most worthy studying by anyone concerned with the future of the internet platform. The GeoWeb is multiplayer and multilayer, a rich melange of data and services, full of opportunity.” Source: Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Radar bulletin 2.0.10, Oct. 2008

Web 3.0 – Semantic Web. In a semantic web, words have definitions, aka ontologies, that further classify the unworkable volume of information on the web. For example, if I want to repair the windows in my house, a semantic web will filter out the millions of search results relating to Microsoft Windows. Semantic classification is a method for a large information provider, i.e. governments, to classify data, information and knowledge which will enable consumers to combine relevant, yet heterogeneous sources into their stories.

Social Media is a component of Web 2.0 that provides methods for individuals and organizations to easily “Write” to the Web. Vehicles to share information and knowledge include Wikis, Blogs, Forums, Twitter, etc. Web 2.0 includes Social Media. However, Social Media does not encompass the diversity of Web 2.0 concepts, business processes and technologies. This is an important point as the Social Media community, including professional Social Media Marketing firms/individuals, are active writers/bloggers/twitters; the shear volume of that commentary risk clouding the full potential of Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0 for decision makers.

We are seeing other powerful initiatives that share information and knowledge. In particular I can’t help but think that professional produced, well researched initiatives such as (Technology, Entertainment, Design), are the start of a new, more powerful, breed of science based social advocacy form of Social Media. “The application of the scientific method for social concern”.

Gov 2.0 – Government as a Platform. Gov 2.0 builds on the Web 2.0 Internet as a Platform principles noted above with a couple of important additions. For governments the value added of Gov 2.0 is leveraging a society’s collective intelligence to solve problems, to grow, by providing access to government data via mechanisms that enable data integration and exploration. To power citizen defined applications, government data needs to be readily accessible with open permissions in usable formats. For example, in Canada, government data is copyright by the Queen in Right of Canada. Irregardless of copyright, permissive licensing can be employed, an example of which is on Open Data is in keeping with an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) resolution [C(2008)36] Maximising the availability of public sector information for use and re-use based upon presumption of openness as the default rule to facilitate access and re-use.”

Parallel with Web 2.0 APIs, large institutions typically use a Service-Oriented Architecture that publish data to standardized services which then power a wide range of applications. In other words data and web services are application neutral. Suggest governments shift focus from “web-site application development” to publishing to web services which will enable applications inside and outside government. In this way data’s value can be increased by its re-use in new and unforeseen ways.


Gov 2.0 = Web 2.2 + Service-Oriented Architecture + Standards + OpenData + OpenLicenses

And to crystal ball….

Gov 3.0 = Web 3.0 + Gov 2.0 + CopyLeft

Gov 4.0 = Gov 3.0 + democratization of decisions + fragmentation of government services

Gov 5.0 = Migration from governments based on the artificial boundaries of nation states to city-states or areas of similar cultures/values. Transition from services provided by a specific government jurisdiction to “government service clouds”, a multitude of service providers at all scales, potentially with world wide reach.

Consider the United States health care debate. The debate is on the agenda because of the election of a new President. Yet, why are personal health needs based upon the vulgarities of a complex, polarized, political dynamic. One could literally die before a solution is offered by that form of implementation. So, for every $100 of taxes I spend on health, why can I not choose a different economic model or ideological model or linguistic model that will govern where my portion of health tax goes. My preference could be a Canadian based public/private hybrid economic health delivery model delivered in Spanish. I choose models and money flow from the international “government service cloud” which in turn fund the professionals, bricks and mortar of my local hospital. I will explore this further in future articles.

Cameron Wilson, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Web 2.0, Web 3.0 or a huge Paradigm shift to a “State of Now”

User driven content is not the only aspect of Web 2.0. It is also changing the way we live. Changing society. Changing business. Changing government. Changing us. Over the next few months my colleague Sonia Riahi and I will be exploring to what depth this is happening and where this may go. What follows are some video’s that illustrate this trend. Your comments are most welcome.

1. Social media and the demise of traditional advertising. “Mad(ison) Avenue Blues” clever lyrics to the music of American Pie, June 3, 2009.

2. The term “The State of Now” coined at the Twitter 140 conference in New York, June 16 – 17th, 2009

Google Wave

The Google team is working on an open source communications tool. It is being lead by the same engineers that pioneered Google Maps (Lars and Yen Rasmussen). Google Wave is based on HTML 5 and combines email, twitter, instant messenger, pictures, maps, etc. It will have a strong suite of Application Programing Interfaces. The strong commitment to open source code and API’s from Google will ensure this Google Wave will pivotal in the world of geospatial web.

Explaining Web 2.0 to an academic audience

Recently I attended the Canadian Associaton of Geographers conference. We were tabling and exploring linkages between academia and government (Natural Resources Canada) using web 2.0 implementations. While there is good will to collaborate, after all we share common academic credentials, widespread knowledge about web 2.0 needs to be addressed.

Shift Happens” is a must see video on changing demographics, digital generation and expecations for teaching, government and society.

Collaboration strategy in a web 2.0 enabled classroom by Michael Wesch.

A vision of students today by Michael Wesch.

An anthropological introduction to YouTube by Michael Wesch. The video is 1 hour long and highly recommended.

GeoRSS and supporting software

The syndication of news feeds is very popular (i.e. RSS & Atom formats) to receive ongoing updates from information providers. An extensive suite of software applications support monitoring or aggregation of these feeds via a news reader. Geographically enabled news feeds (GeoRSS) will help facilitate bring down the walls around complex geographic information science data formats and specifications or standards.

“Our imperative, as a (geospatial) community is to embrace this new form of information publishing (Web 2.0) as and move the state of geospatial publishing forward in step with the mainstream IT industry. We often pay lip service to the idea that non-geospatial industries could benefit greatly from our technologies and standards, but we fail to meet them half way—instead trying to force-feed them our traditional GIS tools. GeoRSS, created outside the OGC but supported and sponsored by the OGC and potentially an OGC standard, is intended to bridge these two worlds, using technology that is robust enough to meet the needs of both the geospatial and non-geospatial communities, yet familiar enough to avoid alienating either.” Source: OGC White Paper An Introduction to GeoRSS:
A Standards Based Approach for Geo-enabling RSS feeds
. Ed. Dr. Carl Reed, Open Geospatial Consortium 2006

A barrier to this is a critical mass of GeoRSS supporting software.

If you click on “Links to Other Websites” below you will find references to a variety of resources tagged “GeoRSS” that may link to current software or initiatives. For an interesting discussion on the software gap, suggested reading is a February 2009 discussion in the mail list.  This is related to a January 2007 discussion about Open Layers and GeoRSS.

Cartography // GIS 1.0 circa 1968′

The genesis of Geographic Information Systems was in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with the development of the Canadian Geographic Information System (CGIS).  The “Data for Decision” promotional videos of the CGIS are historical testament to this great work, circa 1968. They are available on YouTube in three parts; Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Much of the CGIS data, in particular the Canada Land Inventory, was recovered from old magnetic tapes and is available on Natural Resource Canada’s GeoGratis. This recover effort is documented in Back from the Brink. I take two lessons from these videos; (1) data is relevant because it serves a policy or business requirement of an institution and (2) data is timeless and is not tied to the technology of the day.