After More Than A Decade of Success: Where is the Money?

Two recent conferences, SemTechBiz in Silicon Valley and SEMANTiCS in Leipzig, gave me the opportunity to explore (at least) 10 years of success of Semantic Web technologies. From the technically simple but high impact use of vocabularies like DCAT and SKOS through to highly sophisticated use of ontological reasoning in areas such as health care and life sciences, the Semantic Web and its Linked Data subset have a lot to be proud of. Cultural heritage, publishing, statistics, emergency response, spatial data, machine translation, eCommerce, the financial industry – I was able to point to real world examples in all those areas (and got chastised for missing out more!), and I was able to report that ‘a large US technology integration company’ is about to train 20,000 of its staff in RDF and SPARQL (no, sorry, I can’t name them).

And yet, of course, there are many questions that need answering in this space. A recurring one is how to put the power of the Semantic Web and Linked Data in the hands of regular Web developers using tools and methods with which they’re already familiar and without requiring knowledge of graphs and SPARQL (watch this space – we have ideas!). Another concerns the economic opportunities presented by (the 5 stars of) open data. There are claims that public sector open data is worth many billions of … whatever your currency may be … and that developers are itching to get their hands on the data, unleashing a tidal wave of creativity and prosperity.

Well, there certainly are examples of companies making real profits based on services that take open data as an input, often mixed with closed data. Notable examples include DataMarket, the Transport API and Xpresslegal. But where does a data publisher’s responsibility end and a user’s responsibility begin along the path from data source to commercial service?

That question is at the heart of a workshop I’m pleased to be organizing in December in Lisbon under the Share-PSI 2.0 project: Encouraging open data usage by commercial developers. Co-funded by the European Commission under the ICT Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP), Share-PSI 2.0 brings together more than 40 partners from 25 European countries. Partners are either government agencies or people who regularly work with them to develop open data strategies and services. We’ll be joined by funders, developers and policy makers for a series of facilitated conversations and very, very few presentations.

It’s going to be a highly interactive event. See the Call for Participation for more and please join us in Lisbon in December.