How can semantic technologies support democratic structures?

July 28, 2016

As a head-up to the SEMANTiCS 2016 we invited several experts from Linked Enterprise Data Services (LEDS), a “Wachstumskern” project supported by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology (BMBF), to talk a bit about their work and visions. They will share their insights into the fields of natural language processing, e-commerce, e-government, data integration and quality assurance right here. This is part 5. So stay tuned.

Holger Wollschläger is a passionate advocate of an open e-government world. Not only does the IT consultant in the strategy field of "partner solutions" want to help creating open and efficient democratic structures when cooperating with the creative minds of public administrations, research institutes and citizens. Above all, he sees a hitherto hidden data treasure in the public administrations which hold a vast amount of important information both for citizens and for administrative decision-makers. Hence since 2003, he is responsible for data integration and e-Government at Lecos GmbH, the IT service provider of the City Council of Leipzig.

Holger Wollschläger sees a very diverse potential in this hidden data treasure. For example, how would visualized Linked Data of surrounding noise, transport, educational infrastructure and city planning support the decision of citizens with regard to their choice of residence? Or what about the future of city planning itself - especially in the context of optimization and need analysis? For Holger Wollschläger, the possibilities are far from being exhausted.

How can Linked Data and Semantic Web improve the dialog between state / municipal authorities and citizens?

The provision of public administration data has two levels: One to boost the economy, and one in the context of the municipal activities of a local authority.

In regards to the economic development focus I mainly see the following development opportunities:

  • Publishing data in various representation formats enables companies to develop new applications that were not feasible in the past or have not been thought of yet simply because the relevant data wasn’t available.
  • The provision of data with a local focus also enables the development of new local business concepts that are unique for each city.
  • Furthermore, these data give companies a better ability to decide on a new site. Hence, it could become arguments in the battle of the cities to win over strong economic partners.
  • Due to the open exchange between administration, businesses and citizens data gaps can be identified more quickly and can be directly closed. Datasets and analysis can be further enhanced and optimized. This in turn can also improve economic offers.
  • The citizens become participants of a self-developing app ecosystem that continuously opens up new and exciting applications, data visualizations and discussion panels.

The municipal government naturally benefits from better communication within the community (i.e. between the administration and citizens), but also between the local authorities:

  • Vocabularies and taxonomies would simplify the communication and data integration between municipalities.
  • At the same time citizens would get a platform to contribute data and information which is relevant or interesting to them and which could be integrated into the public data.
  • The multilingualism of municipal services could be further developed and facilitated, addressing the significant challenge of immigration and integration.
  • The visualization and dynamic (partially automated) development of public administration information would increase transparency and allow for a dialog between the authorities and citizens at eye level.
  • Published information (resources) can be uniquely referenced by documents and other resources. This would increase transparency as well as credibility of the information.
  • The schemes may also be used as a "development support" for apps which would provide services to citizens in everyday life - i.e. on smart-phones and not just through a website.

What are current bottlenecks in the implementation of this dialog?

I still see a discrepancy between citizens' needs and administrative measures. That's not even necessarily caused by a lack of goodwill, but primarily due to missing or limited administrative possibilities to analyze or “foresee” the citizens’ needs. There is still a lack of platforms and data in order to approach administrative decision making in a creative way. A major problem certainly is the lack of resources to continually develop the administrations’ services.

Ultimately, the dialog with stakeholders in the population must be actively initiated and lived. And to achieve a real majority in the expression of citizen interests and needs, there must be easy-to-use possibilities and tools to enable a clear, open and transparent communication that invites dialog. Not every citizen has the opportunity to participate in public discussions at the City Hall during weekdays.

How does the LEDS project help to improve democratization and citizen participation?

As part of Linked Enterprise Data Services we develop a higher-level hierarchy architecture that can uniformly integrate and match data from different public data sources. This, for example, would allow a live view of the data too.

This approach has three objectives:

  1. Comparability of municipalities in Saxony - and in perspective, also within the entire Federation - based on a variety of "performance" and development data.
  2. Supporting analysis of urban conditions and management measures as well as the development of new concepts through academic work.
  3. This would also facilitate the improvement of the administrative decision-making with respect to the actual citizens’ needs.


LEDS is a joint research project addressing the evolution of classic enterprise IT infrastructure to semantically linked data services. The research partners are the Leipzig University and Technical University Chemnitz as well as the semantic technology providers Netresearch, Ontos, brox IT-Solutions, Lecos and eccenca. 

brox IT-Solutions GmbH

Leipzig University

Ontos GmbH

TU Chemnitz

Netresearch GmbH & Co. KG

Lecos GmbH

eccenca GmbH

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