Obama’s Groundbreaking use of the Semantic Web

    David Peterson

    In a revolutionary move, Obama’s administration is set to utilise next generation web technologies to bring an unprecedented level of transparency to government. In this case it will shed light on how the roughly US $800 billion dollar economic stimulus will be spent. The recently launched recovery.gov website (powered by nothing other then Drupal) brought with it the promise that citizens would be able to view where the money was going and how it was going to be spent.

    To enable the citizen masher to do their wizardry, the administration will be opening up a veritable candy store of goodies: Semantic Web, RDF, Linked Data, SPARQL, RDFa, SIOC, ATOM, RESTful APIs, JSON, Widgets, Wikis, XForms, P2P Networks. Wow. They only forgot the lions and tigers and bears oh my… This is an unbelievable stack of technology. I didn’t think the government even knew what an RSS feed was :)

    Linked Data

    George Thomas, from the U.S. government website recovery.gov, presented some of the details at a talk earlier this month at Transparency Camp. He talked about the moves that the government is taking and the importance of the above technology stack to make that happen.



    About 2 months ago we saw President Obama’s usage of RDFa on whitehouse.gov. While that was admittedly about the size of a grain of sand this is like discovering a new planet. And that planet is within walking distance.

    Gone are the days of Bush and back door deals and under-the-table money exchanges (Halliburton anyone?). Now every single penny will be watchable, trackable and clickable. But with over US $800 billion being spent there is a lot of pennies to track. What is the most effective way to allow this to happen?


    Soon every citizen activist will have at their disposal intelligent data on everything related to the money trail and this will be combined with the best of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 mashup tools. Imagine the possibilities… Just look at what Adrian Holovaty did with ChicagoCrime to get an idea of what can be done when data is combined in unique ways.


    I am excited! This is truly a remarkable and historic move. One of radical transparency the likes of which has not been seen in the US or any other country for that matter. The standard is now set. Come on Australia! and the rest of you countries… Open up your books and let’s see where the chips really fall.

    I had almost titled this post “Show me the money!!!” with a lovely photo of Tom Cruise. Well, that title is still very spot on. Or maybe… “Show me the money…. trail!”.

    Tom Cruise

    Tom Cruise