In this video, London-born Tim Berners Lee recalls in which conditions he pretty much invented the Internet, back in the 1990s. To make a not-so-long story shorter, he explains how he thrived on a very casual, daily frustration linked to the incompatibiliy of the documents that were available.
Twenty years later, as the Internet dramatically shaped the way we live and consume information, something still seems to grind Tim Berners Lee’s gears : the data issue.
But what is data ? Where does lie the difference between documents and data, if any ? Here lies the trick, too often overlooked by policy makers : data is raw information. Alone, data has no significance per se and has no relation to other things. However, when properly turned around and worked on, data can be given meaning and thus create information by way of relational connection. In other words, information is nothing but data that has been translated into a “readable” form that is more convenient to process. Hence the point of database journalism. It is all about finding these relations, possibly cause and effect, in order to shed new light on an unsolved issue.
Back in 1989, Russell Ackoff has the same insight : the proper management of data progressively leads to information, knowledge and eventually wisdom, that encompasses an understanding of all the interactions that facts are made of.
This brings us to the main challenge of data management. The success of the “next Web” as hailed by Berners Lee is contingent upon our ability to bring data together. Besides, this has to be a two-stream effort. While governments and institutions are increasingly urged to release official data, there remains a challenge to linked data developers. A reliable database, say for the French universities, requires processing the vast set of universities, regardless of how long this may take. Therefore, the overwhelming enthusiasm sparked by inspiring statements such as Berners Lee’s shall not overshadow the technical hurdles, in order to create a reliable, mainstream service environment.