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Charles Belle: How Structured Data Can Revolutionize Government

  • Oct 17, 2012 · 8:00 AM
  • Pacific Research Institute

Kathleen Courtney has invited Charles Belle, Executive Director of the Privacy and Technology Project at UC Hastings College of the Law, to discuss Structured Data and how it can transform government at all levels. Every level of government, federal, state and local, produces huge amounts of data. Unfortunately, much of that data is unstructured. As a result, it’s almost impossible to index, classify, search, and build applications to access the information. Consequently, government, at all levels, is locked within an archaic regime and citizens are excluded from fully participating in government.

Today, a largely grassroot (and some government led) efforts in the Open Gov/Gov2.0 Movement have begun to fundamentally change how technology is integrated into government. Traditionally, technology has been seen as a cost center for government. New paradigms, however, leverage technology as a transformative force in government to solve problems and increase citizen engagement through improved accessibility and transparency to government agencies, law making, and practices.

One of the critical technical challenges, however, is the lack of structured
data. Government agencies and law makers produce huge amounts of data, from
test scores to lobbyist funding to proposals to change laws. Much (most) of
this data is unstructured. Because it is unstructured, information is often
inaccessible, except by a small few; and, it prevents the development of new
tools and features by developers to leverage that data in increasingly
innovative ways. Consequently, promoting structured data via legislation is
one of the key initiatives in the Gov2.0/OpenGov movement.

In GOV 2.0 and the Open Gov Movement: How Structured Data Can Revolutionize
Government, Charles will talk about what structured data means; why it's
important; the technical limitations of structured data and what we should
keep in mind; and, legislative proposals to promote Open Data standards in
California and the Federal government. He will also discuss why it’s a
critical pillar of the Open Gov/Gov2.0 Movement.

About Charles Belle

Charles leads research initiatives to create implementable tools that
protect user privacy and continue to encourage innovation. He is a
former technology consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton. Charles has both an
AB and AM from the University of Chicago, and a JD from UC Hastings.

Charles became an evangelist of the Open Gov/Gov2.0 movement after working
on his own startup in the legalfinformatics space. After participating in a
hackathon to identify lobbiyst funding, he co-led a hackathon at UC Hastings
focused on transforming legislative and statutory code into structured data
using a UN developed XML, Akoma Ntoso - “‘a machine readable’ set of simple
technology-neutral electronic representations (in XML format) of
parliamentary, legislative and judiciary documents.”

Today, Charles is co-founder of LegalHacks. LegalHacks is a non-partisan
group of attorneys and technologists promoting structured data in government
to increase accessibility to government, transparency in government, and

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