Gordon Brown spends £30m to plug Britain into semantic web

Summary:New institute headed by Tim Berners-Lee will push web 3.0 technologies

New institute headed by Tim Berners-Lee will push web 3.0 technologies

A £30m institute is to be established to put "the UK at the cutting edge of research on the semantic web", Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a speech today.

The semantic web has been described as the next stage in the evolution of how information is created and stored on the web.

With semantic technology, individual pieces of data are given tags, which categorise what type of information that data is and how it relates to other information. An online clothing company could apply such tags to data on a football boot that would say it is red in colour, it is a boot and it is associated with the sport of football, for example. The boot would then be linked to other items that were red, that were boots and that were football-themes - allowing a search engine to better 'understand' what the object is, how it relates to other objects and concepts and as a result allowing it to return more accurate search results.

The centre - which will be run by world wide web creator Tim Berners-Lee and web science expert professor Nigel Shadbolt - will research how the private sector could use tagged data to spot new business opportunities - such as better identifying areas of customer demand - and increase efficiencies within organisations, through semantic technologies such as XBRL.

The institute will also assist in commercialising semantic web technologies, helping British tech companies to develop new semantic web technologies and sell them in markets around the world.

labour digital manifesto

The Institute of Web Science will look at ways of commercialising semantic web technologies
(Photo credit: clrcmck via Flickr under the following Creative Commons licence)

The centre will also advise government on how semantic web technologies can be used in the public sector: semantic tags could provide the public with a greater insight into the nature of government data and how it relates to other information, for example. Tagged data could also make it easier for different public sector departments and bodies to share and compare information.

Brown said: "This next generation web is a simple concept, but I believe it has the potential to be just as revolutionary - just as disruptive to existing business and organisational models - as the web was itself, moving us from a web of managing documents and files to a web of managing data and information - and thus opening up the possibility of bypassing current digital bottlenecks and getting direct answers to direct requests for data and information."

The institute, which will also research the development and commercialisation of other next-generation web technologies, will be jointly based in the universities of Oxford and Southampton.

The development of the semantic web will help government in its goal to make accessing public services via the web as easy as booking a holiday online or banking over the internet, Brown said.

To help achieve this aim, Brown also pledged to release far more of the data that is collected by central government, so that the public can use it to create their own online apps which simplify access to public information.

Every central government department will be expected to make any non-personal data that it holds available online or have to provide a public account of why it is withholding that information.

At present, it is up to government departments to...

Topics: Tech Industry


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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