February 17, 2004
islands around us
The Brookings Institution recently presented a study on how best to to revitalize my home state of Pennsylvania. In it, they make the point that Pennsylvania is especially provincial in nature. Its institutions, organizations, and people are highly disconnected from each other:
“The intense localism of the state’s 2,566 municipal governments—compounded by the state bureaucracy’s own fragmentation—has often caused jurisdictions to work at cross-purposes rather than together on tough problems.”
We see this at the local level all the time. Everybody’s got their own agendas, so they bicker instead of banding together. Even the well-meaning among us are less effective, because we duplicate the efforts of our neighbors without knowing it.
The answer to this problem is interconnectedness, which to my mind is the real promise of the Semantic Web. The first web brought us openness and location-independence. The new Web will help stitch together our disconnected efforts, making it easier for us to see our common ground.
I believe this strongly, so much so that my company is leading a community effort to showcase our interconnectedness. Our goal is to motivate local historical, environmental, artistic, and educational non-profit community groups to band together for a collective grassroots publicity campaign, using both traditional media and Semantic Web technology. In doing so, we plan to demonstrate the power of our own products in development, but more than this, we’re trying to address the concerns in the Brookings study.
There’s people all around doing great things that help everyone. We just don’t know it. Even the people in the trenches, doing the good stuff, don’t know about others around them. We can help change this.
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