Ivan’s private site

September 28, 2010

ICT2010 Event Brussels, 2nd day: eGov (#ict2010eu for twitter…)

The main event today, as far as I am concerned, was the Governmental Linked Data session that some of us organized under the auspices of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The idea was to talk about the goals, dreams, and problems of Governmental Linked Data to the non-initiated (and the non-converted:-). I believe (although one is never objective about one’s own child) that the session went really well. There were cca. 140 people in the audience which, frankly, exceeded my expectation. Josema gave a nice overview of his “dreams”, i.e., what are the goals and promises of this whole move; this was followed by Jonathan’s dreams that were, of course, largely identical to Josema’s, but he also gave some data and facts about what is happening in Europe these days (e.g., in the area of data catalogues). He also referred to the upcoming European data catalogue project (PublicData.eu) which will be a great asset when it comes. Jeni talked not only about her dreams but also some of the practical experiences in deploying that stuff; as somebody deeply involved in the UK governmental project, i.e., as a person in the trenches, so to say, Jeni was really a great person to talk about that. The fourth and last speaker was Andreas, showing some existing applications on linked governmental data, and also talking about his dream of an application that would, e.g., help in the discussion on problematic societal issues like the Stuttgart 21 project. (Actually, Andreas had the temerity of using the Internet for live demos; with the absolutely awful quality network at the conference I would not have dared to do so!) There was also a lively discussion and questions after the presentations, both as part of the official session as well as after it. It is difficult to say how many people we “reached”, of course, but I think we were successful in getting the idea of Governmental Linked Data more accepted by a wider audience. (B.t.w., there is also a page with all the slide references.) It was interesting that, later in the day, I had a chat with A colleague who claimed that by now the very idea of linked data, and of governmental linked data, is widely accepted by everybody as a way to go, though, of course, lots of details have to be fleshed out. I may not be so up-beat than he is, but, well, it may just be my usual pessimism…

Other than this session, I also listened to several session on the Future Internet. There is now a new funding round on this topic (with a deadline mid January), so it obviously drew quite some attention. In spite of the fact that it is quite difficult to grasp what this think is all about. The goals described by various speakers were putting an emphasis on the societal aspects of upcoming works, on trying to understand what the profound, societal consequences of the ubiquitous internet presence are, what social changes will that bring, how can we understand, via interdisciplinary work, the evolutions, etc. These are all really exciting questions although also very difficult. What bothered me a little bit that all this sounded very familiar: it was the same set of goals outlined by the Web Science Initiative, these days Web Science Trust: just make a global change of “internet” to “Web”, and you got the same! This was all the more disturbing that, when asked about other organizations doing similar work, the representative of the Commission referred to “a UK project called Web Science Initiative, you know, started by Wendy Hall and Tim Berners-Lee…”, i.e., they completely missed the fact that WST is not a UK thing… Missing communications here?

I ranted yesterday on some of the oddities of the conference organization. Sorry, I have to add some more: we (the organizers of the session) sent them the detailed program of the session a few weeks ago. They did put it up on the Web in… Microsoft Word format. What would have costed them to convert that at least into PDF (or ask us to do it, if necessary), let alone turning it into HTML. At a time when everybody is talking about mobile devices and mobile internet, putting up a piece of information that no mobile phone, for example, can read… (B.t.w., they distributed the program of the conference on a USB stick, which is fine, but with a bunch of programs running on Windows only… When will such organizers learn that there are people out there using Linux or a Mac? Sigh…)

B.t.w.: if you have not realized yet, the #ict2010eu twitter feed contains a huge number of entries, a bunch of them are related to our session…

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