An Important New Initiative at the W3C Virtual Technical Plenary: Human Services Data Dictionaries! Join Us on Oct. 21.

By Eric Jahn

Within many countries and across national borders, the internet is full of varying definitions or understandings for similar or even the same human services concepts. For example, the word “program” means different things in different circumstances and different sectors. The same is true for many common terms, even simple ones that we may intuitively believe have the same meaning to almost anyone. (Think “enrollments,” “households,” “exit,” “homelessness” and many, many more.)

That is obviously not a good thing for lots of reasons. So, with impetus from the National Interoperability Collaborative’s (NIC) Project Unify – which aims to demonstrate health and human services interoperability – the Human Services W3C Community Group is beginning to catalog and analyze the various dictionaries for overlap and gaps.

For those new to this organization, W3C stands for World Wide Web Community, which has members around the world. Our mission is to work together to develop standards, protocols and guidelines that improve the web’s functionality and usage.

The purpose of the Human Services Group within the W3C Community is to catalog, link, and improve upon the existing human services ontologies; identify critical gaps; and network with similarly minded people. Some areas of human services, such as healthcare, have very well-established web ontologies, while other areas may not even have standardized definitions or data models, let alone web ontologies.

If this work does not progress, it will be increasingly difficult to compare performance, provide deep learning, and interoperate across the numerous subdomains of human services. Conversely, having an established set of human services knowledge graphs will allow communities around the world to collaborate in deliberate ways and to diverge as they see fit but, in both cases, without having to figure out everything on their own.

The Human Services W3C Community Group will hold its first  meeting – virtually, of course – at 2 p.m. EDT/6 p.m. UTC on Wednesday, October 21. If you’re a human services data professional, or just interested in making human services work better, please join visionaries from around the world for this important kickoff meeting, at which we begin to discuss the areas of work that we can engage in that will make a real, substantive contribution.

Here’s the agenda/info for the meeting, and here’s a link to sign up for the group; please use the listserv/wiki/repository. Finally, with gratitude to the National Interoperability Collaborative for its support and partnership, please take a look at the NIC site, too.

This is going to be an exciting and rewarding journey. We hope you’ll join us for it.

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