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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Changes at Data.gov

If you haven’t looked at data.gov lately, you should. It was launched one year ago and has had a bit of a makeover recently and has added lots of new data.

OMB Watch has a quick overview and comment about the current state of data.gov (Data.gov Celebrates First Birthday with a Makeover, by Roger Strother, OMB Watch. 05/24/10).

Check out these highlights:

  • Apps where developers are creating a wide variety of applications, mashups, and visualizations. From crime statistics by neighborhood to the best towns to find a job to seeing the environmental health of your community…
  • Semantic Web where they highlight a set of data.gov resources reformatted into Resource Description Framework (RDF) format. These allow new kinds of rich interaction with the data. See, for example, the White House Visitor Search. Also see the Thetherless World Weblog from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where some of this work is being done.

And don’t forget, at Data.gov, “data” can mean just about anything, even the Foreign Relations of the U.S.

Confused about RDF? Semantic Web? Linked Data? Don’t be. Read this!

Here is an excellent article on these important technologies:

…the idea of machine-readable data can be a hard sell to people who are unfamiliar with the idea. The idea of Linked Data, like the idea of a World Wide Web when it was first introduced, “solves a problem we didn’t know we had,” said Ronald Reck, head of consulting firm Rrecktek.

In other words, many of the benefits offered by the then-nascent Web, such as the ability to share documents, was already offered through other technologies, such as the File Transfer Protocol. Likewise, it is difficult to understand the concept of a single format for Web-based data when plenty of formats such as relational databases and spreadsheets already annotate data in ways that make it reusable by other systems.

…Berners-Lee said that to use an API, a systems administrator or developer must write a program for the data to be accessible. With RDF, a Web browser should be able to reuse the data, requiring no additional work on the part of users.

See also:
13 resources for government Linked Data.

2 examples of how government data linking can work.