Government agencies are increasingly managing public information as open data, as the world wide web is expanding the use of data standards for civic information. These shifts toward standardized, open civic data make it easier to share data across heterogeneous information systems; to develop and redeploy new technologies at lower cost; and generally to increase the value of data, and the capacities of the networks and communities that use it.
For example, Schema.org (a consortium of search engines that develop standards for web markup) has developed a ‘civic services’ schema to the World Wide Web Consortium (the W3C). This schema can enable information about organizations, the services they provide, and the location of those services, to be indexed and delivered in more effective ways by platforms like Google, Bing, Yelp, etc.
Given this opportunity to make it easier for information about resources to be discovered on the web, Open Referral convened a network of referral providers, governments, funders, civic institutions, and technologists, and focused our efforts on a shared goal: let’s make it as easy as possible to publish, find, trust, and use resource directory information — in any number of ways. That entails the establishment of interoperability between emergent web platforms and conventional information-and-referral systems, and it also entails the development of new methods by which we can sustain the production of resource directory data as open data — a public good.
To make the most of this opportunity, the Open Referral Initiative has developed a data exchange format that can enable many information systems to share the same data. The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems has formally endorsed our protocols as industry standards for interoperable resource data exchange. This means it’s finally possible to break open these silos. Now we have to make it easy.
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