Jan Voskuil

Research & Innovation

Linked Data Applied: A Field Report from the Netherlands

Linked Data and the Semantic Web have generated interest in the Netherlands from the very beginning. Sporting several renowned research centers and some widely published early application projects, the Netherlands is home to Platform Linked Data Nederland, a grass-roots movement promoting Linked Data technologies which functions as a marketplace for exchanging ideas and experiences. SKOS is placed on the ‘comply-or-explain’-list of Forum Standaardisatie, making it an obligatory standard for public-sector organisations.
Paradoxically, commercial activity in this field has long remained quite limited. Until recently. Starting in 2016, the number of implementation projects has soared. Quite a lof of public-sector and for-profit organisations are taking initial steps with relatively small projects. Some have the objective to realize clearly defined solutions to business problems, others are oriented more towards discovering what business value can be created. The number of such projects is growing quite rapidly.
In this presentation we will take stock of what is happening. What are the main points of focus of these projects? Which trends and drivers explain the sudden growth? Can we say something about the future?

Public-sector organizations, like Kadaster, the Police, the Publications Office, the department of Security and Justice, Kennisnet (a standards body in the field of education), Beeld en Geluid, and for-profit organisations, like Wolters Kluwer, Alliander (electricity networks), NXP (chips), and many others, are currently engaged in projects implementing Linked Data technologies. Although in absolute numbers the trade volume is still small, the growth in number of active projects has soared over the past year or so. It is interesting therefore to dig into the concrete business cases that these projects intend to achieve, as well as into the strategic drivers informing them. We find that in terms of strategic value, projects can be categorized in four groups
•    Exchanging and combining data. This category is by far the greatest. Transitioning to Linked Data frees up data from the systems they are generated in, making them independent, accessible, reusable and combinable. If you know the semantics of data residing in different data sets, you can combine them seamlessly, without expensive translation protocols. This can lead to a strong business case, but one that only generates value when multiple parties make the same transition. Most projects in this category have large datasets in scope. Implemented use cases start to become available. Some of the projects in this category, however, are smaller scale and are oriented towards integrating sources of information from inside the organization, with an eye on data driven operations.
•    Data governance. Data governance disciplines such as reference data management and data lineage look at data from a metalevel. It requires clear and explicit definitions of information elements. Linked Data enables you and your computer to trace a piece of data to its definition in a dictionary, a glossary or thesaurus. Machines do not (yet) understand the textual dictionary definition, but they can now ascertain whether two things mean the same or not. This is essential when combining data from different sources. A number of projects in the sample expressly focus on applying this aspect of Linked Data.
•    Semantic search. Once an organization has defined a dictionary of business terms, or rather a thesaurus, it can be used to tag content items. This, in turn, supports semantic search. Several projects seek to implement semantic search use cases, particularly in the context of making technical documentation available to workers in the field. There is an overlap between such projects and the next category.
•    Data-first. Although computers have pervaded almost every aspect of our lives, we still capture much of the information we live by in the form of text. For computers, this information is simply inaccessible. The trend is to move from Text First to Data First. Linked Data, especially in combination Structured Authoring, is a strong enabler in this area. No wonder, therefore, that a number of the most succesful projects can be found in this category.
After considering examples in each category, we will discuss the domains where a lot of activity can be expected in the coming years.


After obtaining a PhD in theoretical linguistics, Jan worked for several start-ups in the field of artificial intelligence. Jan has worked as senior solution architect at a major systems integrator and was involved in several large-scale, high-profile innovation programs. Jan is a technology evangelist in the field of Linked Data and Semantic Web technology, and specializes in language processing, controlled vocabularies and business glossaries. Jan is co-founder and CEO of Taxonic