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Improving Policy Coherence and Accessibility through Semantic Web Technologies: Environmental Policies as Linked Open Data


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The complexity, volume and diversity of government policies and regulations raises significant burden on both the complying parties and government itself. On the one hand, businesses, civil organizations and other societal entities are required to simultaneously comply with and interpret different and possibly conflicting or inconsistent regulations. On the other hand, government as a whole must ensure policy and regulatory coherence across its various policy domains. While the recent wave of open government initiatives have led to significantly more public access to these documents, features allowing cross-referencing related documents and linking to less formal documents or comments on other media more understandable and accessible to the public are not common if at all available today. As a solution to this challenge, we propose an Open Government-wide Policy and Regulation Information Space consisting of documents that are “semantically” annotated and cross-linked to other documents in the information space as well as to external resources such as interpretations, comments and blogs on the social web.
Our approach is three-fold. First, we identify the requirements for the infrastructure. Second, we eloborate a Reference Architecture identifying the various elements needed within the infrastructure. Third, we show how such infrastructure may be realised as a linked data portal where policies and regulations are published as linked open data. Finally, we present a case study involving environmental policy and regulations; discuss the potential impact of such infrastructure on coherency and accessibility of policies and regulations and concludes with challenges associated with provisioning a linked open policy and regulatory information infrastructure.

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Improving Policy Coherence and Accessibility through Semantic Web Technologies: Environmental Policies as Linked Open Data

  1. 1. © Copyright 2011 Digital Enterprise Research Institute. All rights reserved. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Enabling Networked Knowledge Improving Policy Coherence and Accessibility through Semantic Web Technologies: Environmental Policies as Linked Open Data Adegboyega Ojo, DERI, NUI Galway Lewis John McGibbney, Stanford University Edward Curry, DERI, NUI Galway
  2. 2. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Government Policies n  Policy is very complex ¨  Multiplicity ¨  Multi-tenancy n  Policy is Dynamic ¨  Especially environmental and energy n  Policies are related and co-occur ¨  Government and end- users are usually oblivious to policy relationship and interactions
  3. 3. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Policy Coherence Policy Accessibility Policy Compliance Motivation
  4. 4. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Motivation - Policy Coherence n  Varying Levels of Consistency ¨  Across geographical boundaries e.g. counties, districts, national and international ¨  Internal consistency and cross- domain coherence of policies within local government departments n  Goals of Policy Coherency ¨  Consistent interpretation of policy ¨  Comprehensive policies ease decision making ¨  Decision making on quality rather than quantity
  5. 5. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Motivation - Policy Accessibility n  What is Policy Accessibility? ¨  The ability for state and local government departments, business and citizens to have open access to state policy ¨  To have access to policy in formats which they can consume and absorb in order to facilitate their work ¨  Providing open access to all aspects of society including citizens with impairments n  How is policy accessibility achieved ¨  Making use of web technologies to provide transparent access to policy and regulations (i.e. Web Portals) ¨  Simplifying policy drafting and publishing workflows
  6. 6. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Desired Outcome - Policy Compliance n  Policy Coherency Aids Compliance ¨  The more people understand policy, the easier it is to make steps to compliance ¨  Reduces the costs for SME/SMB’s, normal citizens and other parties to comply –  Reduces need for lawyer to interpret policy. n  Policy Accessibility Aids Compliance ¨  Provides a platform for more effective engagement with policies ¨  Encourages more of society to engage with, and understand, policy and regulations which may affect them.
  7. 7. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Environmental Regulation Web Portal n  A wealth of documents relating to Environmental Regulation are published in the portal ¨  Users are simply expected to comply ¨  Need to consult and study multiple document to understand compliance requirements
  8. 8. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Linked Open Data Cloud Over 300 open data sets with more than 35 billion facts, interlinked by 500 million typed links. Linking Open Data cloud diagram, by Richard Cyganiak and Anja Jentzsch. Media Government Geo Publications User-generated Life sciences Cross-domain US government UK government BBC New York Times LinkedGeoData 8 BestBuy Facebook
  9. 9. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Linked Data Principles 1.  Use URIs to identify the “things” in your data 2.  Use HTTP URIs so people (and machines) can look them up on the Web 3.  When a URI is looked up, return a description of the thing in a structured format (RDF) 4.  Include links to related things to provide context
  10. 10. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Could Lightweight Policy Semantics Help ? n  Could Linked Data increase accessibility of policies? ¨ Use of established vocabularies and descriptions to describe policies n  Could Linked Data aid in the coherence of policies? ¨ Stakeholders adopt shared vocabulary when interpreting and exchanging communication over policy
  11. 11. Digital Enterprise Research Institute The Linked Policy Concept n  Building Regulations ¨  Address co-occurrence and inherent complexities –  Use of industry standards e.g. ISO, IFC, to explicitly represent relevant citations essential to a more comprehensive understanding of technical documents ¨  Improve cohesion and interpretation of complex technical regulations and policy –  Use of industry vocabularies for describing physical construction and building entities within specific contexts n  Fisheries Policy ¨  Utilising linked data to invoke inferences between the environment, EU quotas and local policy n  Publication Workflows ¨  Engaging with regulation drafters to ensure that Linked Data is baked in to their workflows
  12. 12. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Linked Environmental Regulation Portal ¨  Compliment, not replace, existing practice and workflows with Linked Data Infrastructure
  13. 13. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Building   Regula,on   LD  Wrapper   Policy   HTTP/RDF   Federated     Linked   Policy   Dataspace   Services   Social   Collabora,on     Environme ntal   Regula,on   LD  Wrapper   HTTP/RDF   Energy   Policy   LD  Wrapper   HTTP/RDF   Search  and   Discovery   RDF  API,  SPARQL   High-Level Reference Architecture Policy   Analysis   Interlinking layer for connecting related policies Conversion of policies to RDF/Linked Data Compliment existing workflows Policy services and collaboration
  14. 14. Digital Enterprise Research Institute Research Challenges n  What type of lightweight policy semantic framework can be used to improve coherence and accessibility to policy end users including the policy makers, policy engineers, etc.? n  What kind of processes is required to create a sustainable semantic policy modelling practice in governmental and international organizations? n  What kind of technology infrastructure is required to enable the modelling, linking, publishing and management of these semantic policies? n  What policy analyses services are possible?