CTIC Foundation's position about Semantics in Web Services

CTIC Foundation (Centre for the Development of Information and Communication Technologies in Asturias) is a private non-profit institution, set up in 2003 and founded by the Regional Government of the Principality of Asturias and a Consortium of regional private companies in the field of Information and Communication Technologies. CTIC Foundation was set up with the objective of promoting and encouraging activities related with the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in every economic, institutional and social sector, which can contribute to the development and improvement of the community of Asturias. In order to reach this goal, CTIC Foundation aims to disseminate and develop the Information Society in general and more specifically ICTs, both in the business and institutional fields, including the ICT approach to citizens, as well as acting as the regional Information Society Observatory. Although CTIC Foundation has recently been set up (2003), both the managing and the working teams have been participating in Information Society related projects and initiatives for over 10 years. In particular, CTIC Foundation has great experience in the field of web Technologies research: Web Accessibility, Semantic web and VoiceXML.

CTIC Foundation is aware of the part that Information Society should play on making nearer the relationship between the citizens and their administrations. In this context, the Regional Government of the Principality of Asturias is broadening their electronic communication channels with citizens, not only by publishing information but also by allowing citizens to complete some paperwork through the Web. Unfortunately, the Web makes it possible to easily access administrative information published, but this information remains difficult to use for most citizens, as they don't know administrative neither legal terminologies. Thus, CTIC Foundation and the Regional Government of the Community of Asturias have undertaken initiatives to solve the problem of make this information clearer and easier to use. These initiatives, most of them based on Semantic Web concepts, have been materialized in various research and development projects. These projects were aimed towards:

To accomplish these two tasks CTIC Foundation formed a heterogeneous team, composed by internationally recognized specialists in three different disciplines: Linguistics, Logic and Software Engineering. The team was continuously supported by professors of the University of Oviedo, and by the manager of the W3C Office for Spain and Latin America, which is hosted by CTIC Foundation.

Software achievements of CTIC Foundation in the Semantic Web context have provided reusable software components and services necessary to store and use enriched administrative information published by the Regional Government of the Community of Asturias. Although the Semantic Web components have been designed to work as independent, reusable software utilities, the complete software framework of the Government of the Community of Asturias was re-designed by software engineers of CTIC Foundation. This new framework, based on Java technologies, gives support for the implementation and the integration of software services of different nature, and among them for Semantic Web software services. Ontologies are implemented using advanced knowledge representation formalisms (RDF/S, OWL) and stored in the framework using XML databases, while all software components of the framework are implemented in Java.

Undoubtedly, developed services provide a new concept of interaction between the Administration of the Principality of Asturias and its citizens. But this interaction could be greatly improved by using similar frameworks for other public administrations and assuring the interoperability between them. So, citizens could transparently interact no only with regional administrations but with national or even international ones using the services they already know. That is, another step on the way to ubiquitous administration.

In the way to ubiquitous administration web services exposed by public administrations must be automatically discovered, and must provide interoperability not only at the application level, but also at security, legislation and administrative procedure levels. In this context, semantic characterization of services is as much important as services itself, as they do not merely provide static information but will allow citizens to complete paperwork by discovering, composing, invocating, executing and finally monitoring Web services.

From CTIC Foundation we are already developing legal and administrative ontologies for underpinning semantic interoperability of services for the e-administration, and we would like to encourage researchers to investigate the way to generally add these semantics to Web services. This generalization is necessary to achieve scalability in discovery and composition techniques, the first step toward national or even international e-administration. We are so convinced that adding semantics to Web services is a critical milestone that as soon as new standards and best practices appear CTIC Foundation will try to incorporate them in the framework of the Principality of Asturias, acting as a test bed and giving continuous feedback to the scientific community.