Using an open source semantic framework ( OSF ) to create meaningful, interoperable information for better citizen engagement

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Just about every city wants to build compelling applications to engage their citizens using the Web. Information sources may include open datasets, local news or stories, real-time feeds, municipal government information systems, or crowdsourced data. This desire is commendable, yet there’s too much duplication of spending by cities to begin this process. Moreover, these efforts often may not address the real fundamental problem -- to meaningfully connect information.

Citizen Dan ( ) addresses this problem by aggregating and mapping datasets into an open semantic framework ( OSF ) with dynamic, agile applications that can engage citizens in current issues with deeper insights.

Citizen Dan uses the open-source MUNI Ontology ( ) an open-collaboration vocabulary and ontology for city, municipal, and local community purposes. The application itself is built on the open source OpenStructs ( ) for converting, managing, viewing and manipulating structured data.

Citizen Dan has been under development by a number of entities over the past two years. Each open source release has incrementally leveraged the progress of the deployment before it.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is currently using OSF for its 'peg' (Winnipeg) project for community indicators. By aggregating quantitative statistical datasets (economic, environmental, cultural, social indicators) with qualitative content (documents,stories and narratives), the resultant value:

• Maximizes the availability of relevant and credible information to citizens and their communities
• Strengthens the capacity of individuals to engage with information and issues with deeper insights, and
• Promotes individual engagement with information and the public life of the community

Steve Ardire, independent consultant and Advisor to Structured Dynamics  will present a brief demo then convey the experiences and lessons learned from the 'peg' project. Innovative cities that will soon begin or are planning similar efforts are invited to discover a valuable new approach.