W3C eGovernment Activity to Help Empower Citizens
W3C launches a new forum for governments, citizens, researchers, and other stakeholders to investigate how best to use Web technology for good governance and citizen participation.
“I encourage people from government agencies to join this W3C forum to make the Web better serve the people,” said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director. “Open Standards, and in particular Semantic Web Standards, can help lower the cost of government, make it easier for independent agencies to work together, and increase flexibility in the face of change.
Publishing Linked Data on the Web enables creative re-use of it — citizen mashups, and commercial mashups, which combine the data from many sources to stunning new uses. By joining this forum, you can learn good “eGovernance” and how to build an Open Standards platform on top of your existing tools and services.”
This forum is open to the public. W3C invites any person or organization interested in eGovernment to join the new eGovernment Interest Group. The group is the culmination of several years of work by W3C in this area, including two Workshops on eGovernment in 2007, one in Europe and one in North America.
Early eGovernment Successes Reveal Challenges Ahead
eGovernment refers to the use of the Web or other information technologies by governing bodies to interact with citizens, between departments and divisions, and between governments themselves. Like any information provider, governments have found it useful and efficient to interact with customers — citizens — via the Internet, allowing them to file tax returns online, take drivers education classes, apply for a visa, and vote. Access to information, and efficient and secure interactions, contribute to fair governance.
These achievements demonstrate the value to governments of providing information and services over the Web, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Exposure to the rapid evolution of services and functionality on the public Web has led citizens to expect and ask for improvements ranging from basic provisioning services to more advanced solutions, and cooperation between the commercial and public sectors.
Open Web Standards Key to Better Public Services
Interoperable, Open Web Standards have benefitted governments around the world in the past several years, including those from W3C in the areas of XML, Semantic Web, Accessibility, Internationalization, and Mobile access. These standards make it possible for people with diverse capabilities, using various devices, to access information. Open standards also make it more likely that data will remain available long into the future, increasing the value of investments in the creation and gathering of data.
Semantic Web standards in particular lend themselves to data aggregation — mashups — and thus to collaboration (planned and unplanned) among government agencies and with other eGovernment actors. Semantic Web technology also helps in the management of accountability, which can help reduce errors and mistakes and build trust.
The new Interest Group, co-Chaired by Kevin Novak (American Institute of Architects) and José M. Alonso (W3C/CTIC), will develop good practices and guidelines for the use of Open Web Standards in governance, identify and document where current technology does not adequately address stakeholder needs. The Interest Group will seek to work closely with other W3C Working Groups and international organizations; some potential liaisons listed in the charter include: the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), OASIS, the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Council for Information Technology in Government Administration (ICA), and the World Bank eDevelopment Thematic Group.
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