Where Open Source, Open Data and government meet

The Obama administration recently excited the world of open source software by choosing to launch recovery.gov on Drupal. Their choice of a free, open source platform over any proprietary system is as hopeful and promising as the purpose of the website they built, which is to lend transparency to the spending of the $800 billion dollar economic stimulus money. We should be happy both that the U.S. government is embracing Open Source software, and that it is promoting Open Data.

I recently blogged about how hundreds of thousands of Drupal sites contain vast amounts of structured data, but that structure has been hidden deep in Drupal databases and never surfaced to the HTML level. To counter this, I'd like the upcoming version of Drupal to emit structured information through the addition of RDFa metadata for both common and custom content types. This could help the Obama administration with their goals around Open Data.

Instead of needing to do all of the data analysis themselves, governments should work on making data available in machine readable formats. This would have the effect of enabling citizens and organizations to query and combine that data, to answer interesting questions not asked before, and to build new services that help other citizens. Just look at Apps for Democracy.

According to Georges Thomas from recovery.gov, the Obama administration wants to do exactly that. Thomas presented some additional details on how they envisioned making all of that data available. Furthermore, they recently solicited proposals for what to technologies to use. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, submitted a proposal for Linked Open Data. Various people, including myself, wrote in to express our support for Tim Berners-Lee's proposal.

To achieve these goals, and help governments transition into an era of open, linked data, Drupal has some growing to do. As mentioned earlier, we are organizing code sprints that aim to make Drupal 7 a more powerful tool for managing RDF data.

Given that recovery.gov already runs Drupal, and given that I would like to see more Semantic Web technologies in core, I couldn't be more excited. With the right encouragement and technological tools, government sites can expose vast amounts of data covering an enormous range of concepts and topics. This data will be exposed in an open, reusable form that can be searched or leveraged by organizations and individuals as they require. We, the Drupal community, have a unique opportunity to help reshape how politics is done.

Step one is to make the data available -- and that is exactly what we try to accomplish with Drupal 7 and beyond. Many of the technologies -- such as RDF, RDFa, SIOC, FOAF, Oauth, and OpenID -- are available. It's a simple matter of programming to start putting these together, and it takes projects like Drupal to help bootstrap them. Time to get our hands dirty!

Comments

peach - all dru... (not verified):

You're sounding like a true visionairy here, keep up the good work! Not sure if such a big implementation can make it into D7, I would not be surprised if full RDF-CCK integration won't be ready until D8, but it would be fantastic if it's ready for Drupal 7 already.

May 6, 2009 - 20:44
ekkmanz (not verified):

It's glad to see the major player on CMS are joining the "Web of Data" initiative. At first I still wonder whether how those small content provider like us will publish ourselves in Markup-free data like RDF. However it seems to be that the Drupal community takes the lead on tackling this problem.

Now the machine is using us! lol

May 6, 2009 - 21:04
Jeff Walpole (not verified):

It would be cool if the Drupal community could figure out a good way to demonstrate/show off how many great semantic web and open data projects are being done using Drupal.

Using Linked Data, RDF, RDFa, SIOC, FOAF, Oauth, and OpenID (also, I have to plug OpenCalais) we can make strong cases for open data work to be done on our platform, but we need biz use cases to show off because the tech is a bit hard for most policy folks to understand (at least here in DC). Case studies anyone?

May 6, 2009 - 21:30
Phil Driver (not verified):

Might be worth looking at StratML - a Strategy Mark Up language being developed by the Association for Information and Image Management to codify strategy language so that ultimately, government strategies (specially in the USA) can be made more publicly accessible.

May 7, 2009 - 03:53
zamir gori (not verified):

All the best for all the Drupal community members for making true Dries as well as others vision come true....!

Once again lets show the power of open-source...!

May 7, 2009 - 07:16
Bart Van Herreweghe (not verified):

Isn't Open Calais http://drupal.org/project/opencalais the start of an application (integration) you're looking for?

May 7, 2009 - 08:17
Julie Blitzer (not verified):

We at Advomatic launched http://nysenate.gov today, a major advance in the open source, open data and government movement. And of course, it's Drupal. There's even a legislative markup tool (the first of its kind to come directly from a legislative body in the US): http://www.nysenate.gov/legislation

May 7, 2009 - 21:43
Pelle (not verified):

It's great to see more focus on semantics!

I'm however a bit surprised at not seeing microformats mentioned since microformats has been the part of the semantic web that has seen most success the last years. They are much more easily implemented than RDF and may be a good start to implement since they in turn maps to RDF properties.

Some microformats that in my opinion should be in the core theme are hCards, could be used for all profile pages, hAtom could be used for all chronological lists of nodes, comments etc, rel=tag should be used for all taxonomy terms.

Right now it can be a struggle to add microformats to some parts of Drupal - fixing the challenges for microformats will make it easier to add RDF later on I believe.

May 8, 2009 - 23:26
Joe (not verified):

I'm not sure if we should be happy or scared that big brother is embracing Drupal and other open source software. I lean toward the side of scared. Not only because I'm a whimp, but more importantly due to Uncle Sam's record of inhumane corporate empire expansion.

Monetarily influenced and controlled governments cannot be trusted. It may look like positive change now, with Obama, but he and other political leaders do not run their countries, the banks and corporations do. I believe it's only a matter of time before they try to slap a price tag or tax on internet technologies, just like the newspaper industry is trying to do at the moment.

I know we can't say, "Hey Obama, you can't use my open source CMS", but free and open technology, news, and education (the internet in general) has to be protected from control at all times. I believe it's our savior right now.

I love Drupal, and after hearing this news, I'm offended that such a abominable sick institution is using it - even if it does provide a beneficial testing ground.

Sorry for the negativity, but I had put this out there.

Peace

May 9, 2009 - 05:56

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