Linked open data for public sector information: sharing my thesis

The public sector records data about what it does and about the environment in which it operates. Nowadays, improved and automated ways of data collection lead to a growth of the volume of data that is available in the public sector. Digitization allows to store the recorded data in a way that scales. Presently, researchers estimate that more than 5 exabytes is stored online every day [1]. Fortunately, there are scalable technologies for data storage and retrieval at our disposal.

The Web enables zero cost reproduction of digital information that makes it possible to share the information in a frictionless manner. Building on the premise that data deemed useful for the public sector is useful for the private sector as well, online exchange of public sector data allows to maximize its value by reaching members of the public that may recycle it and reuse it for their own purposes. In fact, the increased access and reuse of the disclosed public data is driven by technologies making it feasible [2].

Digital data may be represented in structured ways that make it machine-readable. Raw, machine-readable representations of data are amenable to automated processing and enable to retain the generative value of data, so that people and computers might use the data in a non-predefined way. Machine readability makes possible a wide array of interactions with data that go far beyond displaying it. In this way, disclosure of public sector data in a machine-readable format allows members of the public to find new uses for the data.

Adoption of the available technologies for data representation and storage may prove to have a disruptive effect on the public sector. Graham Vickery emphasizes two technological developments that, in his opinion, completely redefined the possibilities for public sector information [3, p. 6]. First, he points out to the technologies that enable digitization of public resources. Second, he highlights the role of broadband telecommunications that enable better access to public sector information.

The technologies for representing and exchanging data constitute the basic components for open disclosure of data. Open access to public sector data is considered as a key ingredient for a government that is open. Open government is “the notion that the people have the right to access the documents and proceedings of government” [4, p. xix], which is necessary for an open society that “reflects the universal values of intellectual autonomy, equality and trust” [5, p. 8]. Coupled with the demand for openness of the public sector, the technologies stimulated numerous initiatives promoting open data world-wide. Open data is a set of practices for data disclosure that strives to provide for an equal access and an equal use of the data.

The foundations of open data draw from related approaches. Driven by the recognition of freedom of information as a basic human right, open data transposes the principles of open access, close to those of open source, onto data. It complements the adoption of the approaches of e-government, which promotes use of information and communication technologies to improve government processes, and coincides with the call for government 2.0, which makes a better use of online collaborative technologies to create a more participatory government.

The application of open data, and more specifically linked open data, to the information held by public sector bodies constitutes the main theme of my diploma thesis titled Linked open data for public sector information, of which I am going to share excerpts here, in the form of blog posts. I have decided to publish it in this way because it allows me to share short and focused pieces on specific topics rather than just publishing the whole thesis. I think of it as of re-contextualization: the information flows differently on the Web than in academia.

In the thesis, public sector information represents the content, to which the principles of open data are applied using the technologies recommended by the linked data publication model. The goal of my thesis is twofold. The first part explores the competitive advantage of linked data for release of public sector information under the terms of open data principles. The second part extrapolates the impact and challenges associated with the adoption of linked open data for public sector information.

I hope you will find it useful.

You can find the original fulltext of the thesis here.

Table of contents

  1. What is public sector information?
  2. Legal aspects of public sector information
  3. Disclosure of public sector information
  4. Pricing models for disclosure of public sector information
  5. Concepts of open data
  6. Legal openness of data
  7. Licences for open data
  8. Principles of open data: accessibility
  9. Principles of open data: use
  10. Qualities of open data
  11. Open data policies
  12. Open data for public sector information
  13. Open data infrastructure of the public sector
  14. Open data as a platform
  15. What is linked data?
  16. Technologies of linked data: URIs
  17. Technologies of linked data: HTTP
  18. Technologies of linked data: RDF
  19. Linked data principles
  20. Linked data: discoverability
  21. Linked data: accessibility
  22. Linked data: permanence
  23. Linked data: use
  24. Linked data: quality
  25. Linked open data in the public sector
  26. Impact of open data
  27. Impacts of open data: transparency
  28. Impacts of open data: accountability
  29. Impacts of open data: efficiency
  30. Impacts of open data: disintermediation
  31. Impacts of open data: participation
  32. Impacts of open data: business
  33. Impacts of open data: journalism
  34. Challenges of open data
  35. Challenges of open data: implementation
  36. Challenges of open data: information overload
  37. Challenges of open data: usability
  38. Challenges of open data: data literacy
  39. Challenges of open data: misinterpretation
  40. Challenges of open data: privacy
  41. Challenges of open data: data quality
  42. Challenges of open data: trust
  43. Challenges of open data: procured data
  44. Challenges of open data: summary


  1. WRUUCK, Patricia. 2012: the year of big data. European Public Policy Blog [online]. Brussels, May 1st, 2012 [cit. 2012-05-01]. Available from WWW: http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.com/2012/05/2012-year-of-big-data.html
  2. BERNERS-LEE, Tim; SHADBOLT, Nigel. Our manifesto for government data. Guardian Datablog [online]. January 21st, 2010 [cit. 2012-04-07]. Available from WWW: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jan/21/timbernerslee-government-data
  3. VICKERY, Graham. Review of the recent developments on PSI re-use and related market developments [online]. Final version. Paris, 2011 [cit. 2012-04-19]. Available from WWW: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/report/psi_final_version_formatted.docx
  4. LATHROP, Daniel; RUMA, Laurel (eds.). Open government: collaboration, transparency, and participation in practice. Sebastopol: O'Reilly, 2010. ISBN 978-0-596-80435-0.
  5. HALONEN, Antti. Being open about data: analysis of the UK open data policies and applicability of open data [online]. Report. London: Finnish Institute, 2012 [cit. 2012-04-05]. Available from WWW: http://www.finnish-institute.org.uk/images/stories/pdf2012/being%20open%20about%20data.pdf

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