Increasing Access to Resource Databases

I&R improves people's lives through the provision of curated information and mediated navigation about human services. 

A fundamental objective is to increase access to human services information -- that is, to 'unleash' I&R resource data so it can effectively reach more people in more ways. For example, instead of the public or professionals needing to go to one particular website, that same information can be made accessible through a variety of mechanisms. Here are some examples of potential Use Cases.

This webpage outlines various options for organizing the structure of community resource databases in terms of the relationships between agency information, site information and program/service information, together with the data fields contained within each area. It also includes an API, and various payload formats for bulk data transfer. The general purpose is to encourage and support resource database inter-operability and migration -- that is, ways for I&Rs to import/export resource data between different I&R and other human service software systems.

All of the following versions, schemas and the API are open source. 

Three of the main components involved in making this happen are for:

  • I&Rs to maintain data in ways that are compliant with the structure of these data standards. (The AIRS Style Guide recommends ways for I&Rs to enter data elements.) 
  • I&R software vendors to use these data standards as a mapping template to facilitate data transfer.
  • I&Rs to be open to opportunities to work in new ways.

If you have technical suggestions for improvements or related questions, please contribute to the github site corresponding to the specific standard. Note that all of these documents have a version that is the continual 'working draft', and we recommend that only the release versions are implemented in production systems.

AIRS LINKED OPEN VOCABULARY (LOV)

Linked Data is a relatively new method of publishing structured data on the Web, so that it can be searched in useful ways by anyone. The term "Linked Data" was coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the 'inventor' of both the World Wide Web and Linked Data.

AIRS recently completed a demonstration project on the use of Linked Data. It shows how to freely publish Linked Data, and then how to layer optional security, payment, other terms, and usage restrictions upon the shared Linked Data using an API Gateway. It also shows how to use the API Gateway to monitor usage of the Linked Data.  This is a technology option ready for deployment by I&R system vendors and I&R service providers.

Linked Data was chosen because it offers significant advantages over other means of sharing data.  Linked Data supports collaborative sharing models while being extensible and easily re-usable. Among the benefits of Linked Data are that it does not have to be migrated to a central database. The data is stored at its current location and is supplied on an as-needed basis, and as such, the data will always be the most up-to-date information available. Click here for the link to the diagram, code, and issue tracker for AIRS Linked Open Data (LOV).

Click here for the: AIRS Linked Data Project: Demonstration Stage Final Report
 

AIRS XSD

This data standard uses a technology called XML (eXtensible Markup Language) which is an internationally recognized means for the development of customized data payload standards. These customized standards are called XML Schemas (XSD). AIRS has used this technology to create the AIRS XML Schema, a customized standard for sharing I&R resource data.  (This presentation on XSD may be a more helpful introduction). It is important to note that there is no vendor software that is officially "AIRS XSD Compliant" as AIRS does not currently assess software at that level. Subsequent versions have built upon a collaborative process between I&R subject matter experts and the main I&R software vendors. The (click to link) current release candidate 4.0 version was built upon the previous 3.1 version and brings it into line with the AIRS Linked Open Vocabulary 4.0. The issue tracker for AIRS XML is located here: https://github.com/airsalliance/airs-xml/issues ...

AIRS JSON

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is an open standard format that uses human-readable text. It is the most common data format used for APIs. Click here to access the JSON release candidate version.
 

AIRS API

The AIRS Resource API provides sufficient instructions for one I&R system to securely retrieve and update agency, site, and program/service information from another I&R system, by using the Web. With sufficient usage feedback, this option can evolve over time.  Click to browse the current release candidate version. And here is the access to the Github site that serves as the API's issue tracker.
 

AIRS CSV

CSV (comma-separated values) can be opened in Excel or any spreadsheet software and edited easily by hand. CSV offers a simpler alternative to the feature rich alternatives above. Click here to access the CSV release candidate version.

 

History of the AIRS XSD: A subcommittee of the AIRS Technology Committee built upon the work of the Michigan Association of United Ways and received further assistance through a U.S. Department of Commerce Technology Opportunities Grant to the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. This resulted in the creation of the first version of the AIRS XSD. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a scaled down version of the AIRS XSD facilitated the sharing of data in emergency situations. Following that experience, the AIRS Technology Committee led by Marianne Galleon, began a full scale review of the AIRS XSD. AIRS secured the consulting services of information architects, Ian Cottingham and Ben Kutsch from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Laboratory for Advanced Research Computing, to review the composition of I&R resource data. The objective was to create a more robust and reliable XSD that should encourage vendors to build it into their systems. Bowman Systems set up a wikisite for the development and future stages of the project. In June 2008, the AIRS Board of Directors approved Version 3.0 of the AIRS XSD. This version built upon the work of previous standards (starting with a 2.0 and 2.07) and incorporated improvements suggested by I&R organizations and vendors. In May 2012, following a collaborative process between an I&R group of subject matter experts and the main I&R software vendors, the AIRS Board approved Version 3.1 of the AIRS XSD. The technical consultant for this project was Eric Jahn of Alexandria ConsultingThe current version is 4.0.

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