Risk and Reward Implications of The Semantic Web

In a world laden with uncertain economies, diverse development needs, and rapid technological change, the World Wide Web has emerged as an essential enabler for the accomplishment of most individual, team, and corporate missions across the globe today. The Semantic Web takes Internet computing to the next level.

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In a world laden with uncertain economies, diverse development needs, and rapid technological change, the World Wide Web has emerged as an essential enabler for the accomplishment of most individual, team, and corporate missions across the globe today. The Semantic Web takes Internet computing to the next level. It is a vision of the web where information is understandable to computers, so that machines can recognize and process information similar to human interaction. As Tim Berners-Lee stated “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.”

Will your Company “Sparkle” in 2008? The State of Semantic Web, which appeared recently in a CIO magazineblog post discusses new technical specifications for effective Semantic Web implementation into corporate operations and outlines some of the potential capabilities and benefits that can be realized if executed properly. According to the article, Semantic Web Services are slated to “revolutionize eCommerce and enterprise-wide integration” through improved support in business processing, monitoring, and a heightened level of analysis.  

Undoubtedly, a web in which machines are empowered with a common semantic ontology would enhance a firm’s ability to compete. Not only would the technology enable an organization with information to better target and obtain quality clientele, but also it is likely to improve internal processing time considerably by having machines rapidly complete tedious work that once took humans days. Thus these technological advancements would promote increased revenue generation at a lower cost, which translates into greater profits.

While it is quite probable that the Semantic Web would prove immensely helpful to most industries today, it seems there are still several hurdles to overcome before it will become a phenomenon. The major concerns include practical feasibility, personal privacy and information security. The aforementioned article alludes to the practical feasibility concern in its discussion of the new level of complexity involved in creating a workable Web Ontology Language (OWL). Organizations would need to spend considerable resources on the development without any guarantee at this time that it will prove workable with a great community language that has yet to be fully determined.

Further, personal privacy and information security put a damper on the excitement surrounding Semantic Web development and deployment. Though technology is generally viewed as a positive, enabling tool for an organization, the increased accessibility and transferability of consumer data executed by machines has begun to raise great concern for the lack of control and recourse around personal privacy. It is likely that the proliferation of the Semantic Web will be slow until the World Wide Web Consortium establishes regulations to mitigate some of the liability corporations face in launching Semantic technology for consumer information.

The article concludes by acknowledging that while risks are inherent in each new technological development, those who embrace the strategic applications of Semantic web technology as a cultural shift will reap priceless benefits in heightened levels of enterprise flexibility, agility and efficiency.  And of us active information age participants today must decide whether the benefits of globalization and e-commerce, facilitated largely by the Semantic Web outweigh the costs of the privacy infringements. This adjusted moral outlook supports free flow of information, which downplays the effects on individual privacy and promotes the use of information as a competitive advantage for those who are savvy enough to employ it efficiently.

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