Linked Data as a concept is rather difficult to comprehend, much less explain. It gets even more complicated when you combine it with open-data into what is known as Linked Open Data (LOD). As open-data becomes more common there will be an even greater need to link the information contained in those datasets to other bits of information in other datasets. For years now academia has been researching the concept of linked-data. As usual the need for such research has not been readily apparent to those of us in industry. It’s not until recently that we’re starting to understand the real need for information to be connected.
As proponents of open-data we understand that the way open-data is currently made available is not as it should be. We’re in the early stages of a data revolution, one that will change the way just about every piece of data is dealt with. As more and more data becomes openly available we need ways to manage the flood. Currently, most open-data is published in databases and in many cases it’s not current – this is because they’re constructed as copies of live databases a snapshot of a moment in time. This means that the data more often than not, is out-of-date.
Another issue with open-data is how it is structured and related. For example, many records found in a city’s open-data database refer to locations and street addresses. Events that take place at the same location also have an address. And those addresses are probably not formatted the same. It makes sense, because they most likely come from different databases that are managed by different departments and people.
For open-data to succeed we need to get rid of structure inaccuracies, discrepancies and duplication. Imagine for example, that there was a single LOD point for each street address of a location/place and that the address information was maintained by the municipality. As information about organizations, events and just about anything else becomes linked to that authoritative point, the information does not need to be duplicated, nor would it be mangled by different database structures. Not only city data could link to it, but any data that referred to that address.
This is but one simple example of how linked open-data will solve the real issues of open-data. It’s time the public, industry and governments come together to create the future of data, what we will call for a short time, Linked Open Data. After all, once all kinds of data, including open-data become linked we won’t think of it as anything else, but just data.
By Jose Leal