Semantic Web in E-Government

Semantic Web in E-Government

Mamadou Tadiou Koné (Université Laval, Canada) and William McIver Jr. (National Research Council and Institute for Information Technology, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch545
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Abstract

Today, in many countries, looking for government information, filing taxes, renewing a driver’s license, obtaining a certificate and notifying of a new address anytime, anywhere are becoming mundane online operations. For the satisfaction of their constituents, local governments are striving to deliver more effective and efficient online services through the use of innovative information and communications technologies. E-government also known as “digital government” can be defined as the civil and political conduct of government using information and communication technologies (ICT) (McIver & Elmagarmid, 2002). The most accepted picture of e-government is that of a provider of online services to citizen (G2C), businesses (G2B) and the administration (G2G). The real value of an e-government rests on the effectiveness of its programs, the broad availability of its enhanced online services, the satisfaction of customers and the tangible savings in time, money and human resources (Koné, 2005). E-government expansion and adoption by communities, citizens, businesses, and public administrations in most countries is generally seen as a four-step process: presence phase, interaction phase, transaction phase, and transformation phase. The goal of the last transformation phase is to integrate several internal services at the vertical and horizontal levels, into a one-stop, whole-of-government with innovative services operating seamlessly across departments, agencies and programs. To address the problems of seamless integration and interoperability (D’Auray, 2001), some actors in e-government are experimenting with the semantic Web promoted by Tim Berners-Lee (Berners-Lee et al., 1999, 2001), Web service technologies (McIlraith et al., 2001) as well as service oriented architecture (SOA) as a means for achieving integration and inter-operation in the service transformation phase. Scope and Structure of the article This chapter aims at presenting the semantic Web technology applied to the transformation and advancement of e-government. After this introduction in the first section, we expose in the second section the nature of the semantic Web and e-government. Then, we explain in the fourth section, how semantic Web technologies can contribute to solving known issues in the transformation of e-government. Given this background, we are able to propose a simple illustration of our ideas: Web services and semantic Web-based architectures within the e-government project of Québec, Canada. We then give a glimpse of some future trends in the fourth section and the conclusion in the fifth and last section.
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Introduction

Today, in many countries, looking for government information, filing taxes, renewing a driver’s license, obtaining a certificate and notifying of a new address anytime, anywhere are becoming mundane online operations. For the satisfaction of their constituents, local governments are striving to deliver more effective and efficient online services through the use of innovative information and communications technologies.

E-government also known as “digital government” can be defined as the civil and political conduct of government using information and communication technologies (ICT) (McIver & Elmagarmid, 2002). The most accepted picture of e-government is that of a provider of online services to citizen (G2C), businesses (G2B) and the administration (G2G). The real value of an e-government rests on the effectiveness of its programs, the broad availability of its enhanced online services, the satisfaction of customers and the tangible savings in time, money and human resources (Koné, 2005).

E-government expansion and adoption by communities, citizens, businesses, and public administrations in most countries is generally seen as a four-step process: presence phase, interaction phase, transaction phase, and transformation phase. The goal of the last transformation phase is to integrate several internal services at the vertical and horizontal levels, into a one-stop, whole-of-government with innovative services operating seamlessly across departments, agencies and programs. To address the problems of seamless integration and interoperability (D’Auray, 2001), some actors in e-government are experimenting with the semantic Web promoted by Tim Berners-Lee (Berners-Lee et al., 1999, 2001), Web service technologies (McIlraith et al., 2001) as well as service oriented architecture (SOA) as a means for achieving integration and inter-operation in the service transformation phase.

Scope and Structure of the Article

This chapter aims at presenting the semantic Web technology applied to the transformation and advancement of e-government. After this introduction in the first section, we expose in the second section the nature of the semantic Web and e-government. Then, we explain in the fourth section, how semantic Web technologies can contribute to solving known issues in the transformation of e-government. Given this background, we are able to propose a simple illustration of our ideas: Web services and semantic Web-based architectures within the e-government project of Québec, Canada. We then give a glimpse of some future trends in the fourth section and the conclusion in the fifth and last section.

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Government Web Services: E-government applications deployed over the Web within a Web service infrastructure. This technology becomes really useful only when an ensemble of related distributed e-government services are composed in order to create a new one.

Ontology: Originally used in philosophy to refer to the kind of things that exist, an ontology is interpreted as “ a specification of a conceptualization ” (Tom R. Gruber) in the context of artificial intelligence. In practical terms, an ontology is the set of terms of a vocabulary about a given domain and all the relationships between these terms. It can be written as an RDF document with classes and properties available for creating instances and making assertions.

Semantic Web: The best and most well known definition of the semantic Web is given by its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee in the May, 2001 issue of Scientific American as “ The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. ” To achieve this goal, a data model called resource description framework (RDF), several data interchange formats like RDF/XML and N3, notations called RDF schema (RDFS) and the Web ontology language (OWL) have been developed and proposed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to give formal descriptions of concepts, terms, and relationships in a domain.

Service Oriented Architecture: (SOA): is literally an architecture which relies on service-orientation. It is a reliable and relatively simple infrastructure which allows greater data integration, interoperability and the coordination of a collection of heterogeneous systems. OASIS (the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) defines SOA as: “A paradigm for organizing and utilizing distributed capabilities that may be under the control of different ownership domains. It provides a uniform means to offer, discover, interact with and use capabilities to produce desired effects consistent with measurable preconditions and expectations.”

Semantic Web Services: When Web services and their related messages are semantically described (capabilities, interfaces) with appropriate ontologies, they are called semantic Web services.

World Wide Web: A system of interlinked multimedia documents distributed over the Internet created by Tim Berners-Lee around 1990.

Web Services: Web services are a set of protocols named Web services description language (WSDL), uniform description, discovery and integration (UDDI) and simple object access protocol (SOAP) used to exchange data between applications regardless of their platform, language or object model. In this interaction, there are three actors, 1. A service provider defines with the WSDL language the format for request and response of services it generates 2. A UDDI registry stores the services descriptions published by the service provider 3. A service consumer in need can make a request and find a particular service description in the UDDI registry. It subsequently calls this service through the SOAP protocol and requires it to perform some action at the provider’s location and send back the result. Current examples Web services are weather information service, authentication service, Foreign exchange service and Knowledge base service.

Interoperability: The ability of several software components based on different platforms to interact, exchange services and cooperate in solving complex tasks. ISO TC204 defines interoperability as “ the ability of systems to provide services to and accept services from other systems and to use the services so exchanged to enabled them to operate effectively together.”

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