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New Initiative: Open Data for Tax Justice #OD4TJ

Jonathan Gray - March 2, 2016 in Campaigning, Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, open knowledge, Our Work, Public Money


Every year countries lose billions of dollars to tax avoidance, tax evasion and more generally to illicit financial flows. According to a recent IMF estimate around $700 billion of tax revenues is lost each year due to profit-shifting. In developing countries the loss is estimated to be around $200 billion, which as a share of GDP represents nearly three times the loss suffered by OECD countries. Meanwhile, economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that certain components of undeclared offshore wealth total above $7 trillion, implying tax losses of $200 billion annually; Jim Henry’s work for TJN suggests the full total of offshore assets may range between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

We want to transform the way that data is used for advocacy, journalism and public policy to address this urgent challenge by creating of a global network of civil society groups, investigative reporters, data journalists, civic hackers, researchers, public servants and others.

Today, Open Knowledge and the Tax Justice Network are delighted to announce the launch of a new initiative in this area: Open Data for Tax Justice. We want to initiate a global network of people and organisations working to create, use and share data to improve advocacy and journalism around tax justice. The website is: and using the hashtag #od4tj.

The network will work to rally campaigners, civil society groups, investigative reporters, data journalists, civic hackers, researchers, public servants and others; it will aim to catalyse collaborations and forge lasting alliances between the tax justice movement and the open data movement. We have received a huge level of support and encouragement from preliminary discussions with our initial members, and look forward to expanding the network and its activities over the coming months.

What is on the cards? We’re working on a white paper on what a global data infrastructure for tax justice might look like. We also want to generate more practical guidance materials for data projects – as well as to build momentum with online and offline events. We will kick off with some preliminary activities at this year’s global Open Data Day on Saturday 5th March. Tax justice will be one of the main themes of the London Open Data Day, and if you’d like to have a go at doing something tax related at an event that you’re going to, you can join the discussion here.

OD4TJ members

A Data Revolution that Works for All of Us

Rufus Pollock - September 24, 2014 in Featured, Open Data, Open Development, Open Government Data, Our Work, Policy

Many of today’s global challenges are not new. Economic inequality, the unfettered power of corporations and markets, the need to cooperate to address global problems and the unsatisfactory levels of accountability in democratic governance – these were as much problems a century ago as they remain today.

What has changed, however – and most markedly – is the role that new forms of information and information technology could potentially play in responding to these challenges.

What’s going on?

The incredible advances in digital technology mean we have an unprecedented ability to create, share and access information. Furthermore, these technologies are increasingly not just the preserve of the rich, but are available to everyone – including the world’s poorest. As a result, we are living in a (veritable) data revolution – never before has so much data – public and personal – been collected, analysed and shared.

However, the benefits of this revolution are far from being shared equally.

On the one hand, some governments and corporations are already using this data to greatly increase their ability to understand – and shape – the world around them. Others, however, including much of civil society, lack the necessary access and capabilities to truly take advantage of this opportunity. Faced with this information inequality, what can we do?

How can we enable people to hold governments and corporations to account for the decisions they make, the money they spend and the contracts they sign? How can we unleash the potential for this information to be used for good – from accelerating research to tackling climate change? And, finally, how can we make sure that personal data collected by governments and corporations is used to empower rather than exploit us?

So how should we respond?

Fundamentally, we need to make sure that the data revolution works for all of us. We believe that key to achieving this is to put “open” at the heart of the digital age. We need an open data revolution.

We must ensure that essential public-interest data is open, freely available to everyone. Conversely, we must ensure that data about me – whether collected by governments, corporations or others – is controlled by and accessible to me. And finally, we have to empower individuals and communities – especially the most disadvantaged – with the capabilities to turn data into the knowledge and insight that can drive the change they seek.

In this rapidly changing information age – where the rules of the game are still up for grabs – we must be active, seizing the opportunities we have, if we are to ensure that the knowledge society we create is an open knowledge society, benefiting the many not the few, built on principles of collaboration not control, sharing not monopoly, and empowerment not exploitation.

Upcoming Community Sessions: CKAN, Community Feedback

Heather Leson - April 28, 2014 in CKAN, Events, Network, Open Knowledge international Local Groups, Our Work, Working Groups

Happy week! We are hosting two Community Sessions this week. You have expressed an interest in learning more about CKAN. As well, We are continuing our regular Community Feedback sessions.

Boy and the world image

Take a CKAN Tour:

This week we will give an overview and tour of CKAN – the leading open source open data platform used by the national governments of the US, UK, Brazil, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Austria and many more. This session will cover why data portals are useful, what they provide and showcase examples and best practices from CKAN’s varied user base! Bring your questions on how to get started and best practices.

Guest: Irina Bolychevsky, Services Director (Open Knowledge) Questions are welcome via G+ or Twitter.

  • Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 PT /10:30 ET /14:30 UTC /15:30 BST/16:30 CEST
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Register and Join via G+ (The Hangout will be recorded.)
Community Feedback Session

We promised to schedule another Community Feedback Session. It is hard to find a common time for folks. We will work on timeshifting these for next sessions. This is a chance to ask questions, give input and help shape Open Knowledge.

Please join Laura, Naomi and I for the next Community Feedback Session. Bring your ideas and questions.

  • Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
  • Time:9:00 PT/12:00EDT/16:00 UTC /17:00 BST/18:00 CEST
  • Duration:1 hour
  • Join via Meeting Burner

We will use Meeting Burner and IRC. (Note: We will record both of these.)

How to join meeting Burner: Audio instructions Option 1 Dial-in to the following conference line: Number 1- (949) 229 – 4400 # Option 2 You may join the conference bridge with your computer’s microphone/speakers or headset

How to join IRC:

More about the new Open Knowledge Brand

Host a Community Session in May

We are booking Community Sessions for May. These Open Knowledge online events can be in a number of forms: a scheduled IRC chat, a community google hangout, a technical sprint or an editathon. The goal is to connect the community to learn and share their stories and skills. If you would like to suggest a session or host one, please contact heather dot leson at okfn dot org.

More details about Community Sessions

(Photo: Heather Leson (San Francisco))

Happy Spring Cleaning, Community Style

Heather Leson - April 1, 2014 in Community Stories, Events, Featured, Network, OKFestival, OKI Projects, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Knowledge international Local Groups, Our Work, Working Groups


Crazy about happy? Call it spring fever, but I am slightly addicted to the beautiful creativity of people around the world and their Happy videos (map). We are just one small corner of the Internet and want to connect you to Open Knowledge. To do this, we, your community managers, need to bring in the Happy. How can we connect you, meet your feedback, continue the spirit of global Open Data Day, and celebrate our upcoming 10 year anniversary as Open Knowledge? Tall order, but consider this.

Open Knowledge is a thriving network. We exist because of all of you and the incremental efforts each of you make on a wide-range of issues around the world. The way forward is to flip the community around. We will focus on connecting you to each other. Call it inspired by Happy or the Zooinverse mission, but we heard your input into the community survey and want to meet it.

Coffee smiley by spaceageboy

So, here are 4 key ways we aim to connect you:

1. Community Tumblr

Greece, MENA, and Tanzania – these are just some of the locations of Open Knowledge Stories on the Community Tumblr. We know that many of you have stories to tell. Have something to say or share? Submit a story. Just one look at the recent WordPress about 10 moments around the world gives me inspiration that the stories and impact exist, we just need to share more.

The Open Knowledge Community Tumblr

2. Wiki Reboot

As with every spring cleaning, you start by dusting a corner and end up at the store buying bookshelves and buckets of paint. The Open Knowledge wiki has long been ridden with spam and dust bunnies. We’ve given it a firm content kick to make it your space. We are inspired by the OpenStreetMap community wiki.

What next? Hop on over and create your Wiki User account – Tell us about yourself, See ways to Get Involved and Start Editing. We think that the wiki is the best way to get a global view of all things Open Knowledge and meet each other. Let’s make this our community hub.

3. Community Sessions

We have a core goal to connect you to each other. This April we are hosting a number of online community events to bring you together. Previously, we had great success with a number of online sessions around Open Data Day and OKFestival.

The Community Sessions can be in a number of forms: a scheduled IRC chat, a community Google hangout, a technical sprint or hackpad editathon. We are using the wiki to plan. All events will be announced on the blog and be listed in the main Open Knowledge events calendar.

Wiki planning for the Community Sessions:

The first session is Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 14:30 UTC/10:30 ET. We will host an IRC chat all about the wiki. To join, hop onto #okfn. IRC is a free text-based chat service.

4. OkFestival

OKFestival is coming soon. You told us that events is one of the biggest ways that you feel connected to Open Knowledge. As you many know, there are regular online meetups for School of Data, CKAN and OpenSpending Communities. Events connect and converge all of us with location and ideas.

Are you planning your own events where you live or on a particular open topic? We can help in a few ways:

  • Let us know about the events you’re running! Let’s discover together how many people are joining Open knowledge events all around the world!
  • Never organized an event before or curious to try a new type of gathering? Check out our Events Handbook for tips and tricks and contact our Events Team if you have questions or feedback about it
  • Want to connect with other community members to talk about your events, share skills, create international series of events together? Ping our global mailing list!

Have some ideas on how we can bring on the happy more? Drop us a line on the okfn-discuss mailing list or reach out directly – heather DOT leson AT okfn DOT org.

(Photo by SpaceAgeBoy)

Rufus Pollock named Tech Hero for Good

Theodora Middleton - March 20, 2014 in News, Our Work

Rufus Pollock, Open Knowledge Foundation

Nesta, the UK innovation charity, has announced it’s Ten Tech Heroes for Good – and Founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, Rufus Pollock, is on the list! We’re really proud that the achievements of Rufus and the Open Knowledge Foundation have been recognised in this way: focusing on the power of openness to achieve positive social change.

As Nesta say in their blog:

One of the truths we believe in at Nesta is:

Technology won’t save us, people will.

It’s a truth that’s often misunderstood by the tech evangelists, the singularity obsessives, and all the dystopian bandwagoners who think that technology is an alien force that we have to fight to control, otherwise it will eventually control us. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Technology is an enabling force that allows us to improve the world around us. It is part of our human fabric, not some alien species.

That’s why we wanted to pick out some of the brightest and best talents around the UK and show the great ideas they’ve come up with that use digital technology as the enabling force to improve how we live.

The selection panel was made up of Nesta experts, and set out to identify tech leaders with revolutionary ideas across the board. Rufus was recognised particularly for the groundbreaking work at CKAN, the open source platform which powers many open data portals around the world, including the UK government, the US government, and the EU Open Data Portal. CKAN is a key driver of collaborative and transparent government in the 21st century, providing the foundations of an open data ecosystem. WDMMG Bubbles

Other Open Knowledge Foundation projects which received special mention were Where Does My Money Go?, our budget visualisation tool which was the starting point of our bigger OpenSpending project to map all government transactions around the world; Open Data Commons which provides the legal tools that enable the open publication of data; and Open Shakespeare, our free online database of all the Bard’s works.

Other Tech Heroes celebrated in the Nesta list were Eben Upton, the inventor of the Raspberry Pi credit card computer; Iris Lapinski, CEO of Apps for Good, an open-source education technology programme; Linda Sandvik, co-Founder of CodeClub, a free national after-school programme teaching programing; Chris Lintott, founder of the Zooniverse citizen science platform; Sue Black, leading advocate for women in computing; Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, co-founder of Patients Know Best which is revolutionising patient-doctor relationships; Emma Mulqueeny, founder of Rewired Reality, bringing together skilled innovators with the organisations who need them; Raspberry PI Tom Farrand, co-founder of Good for Nothing, building communities to help grassroots innovators achieve social good; and Dominic Campbell, co-founder of Patchwork HQ, a tool to enable better coordination among social care professionals.

Many of these projects include open source and open data elements, and all of them are using technology to empower people and create more just societies. We are really excited to be part of this movement.

Who are you? Community Survey Results (Part 1)

Heather Leson - February 12, 2014 in Open Knowledge Foundation, Our Work, Transparency

You are incredibility diverse and passionate. Last fall over 320 of you participated in our first OKF community-wide survey. You gave us an incredible view into you, your needs and how we at OKF can better support you. This is the first of three posts to show you: who you are, some analysis on your responses and, most importantly, how we are working to meet your feedback. Responses came from around the globe: Argentina to Indonesia to Norway to South Africa to the USA.

Today’s post is a few shiny examples to show you more about you. Without the community, OKF is just a green logo. We hope that you will enjoy this window into your OKF:

How would you describe your role in the open knowledge / open data world? OKF Community Snapshot

Why are you involved with or interested in the Open Knowledge Foundation? Do you work for, or closely with, any other organisation in the open data / open knowledge space? Type of organization

How you define Open Knowledge:

Antti Poikola (Finland) defines Open Knowledge as: open data + open content + open collaborative ways to work/act share and develop shared knowledge

how you define open knowledge

Why are you involved with or interested in the Open Knowledge Foundation? how are you involved at okf

Tune in for the next post all about your feedback and what you think is critical or needs improvement.

Thanks again to everyone who responded. And, for all you who continue to make a difference in the open world.

Top 10 Greatest Hits of 2013!

Theodora Middleton - December 20, 2013 in Featured, Our Work

The year is drawing to a close. Before we tumble headlong into the new year, let’s take a moment to reflect on the incredible success of 2013. Here’s our Top 10 Greatest Hits of the last year, in reverse order…

Launch of

In May, one of the most significant CKAN instances ever was launched, in the shape of the new US government open data portal, The total number of CKAN instances is unknown, as the software is fully open source, but at least seventy now exist around the world.

Open Economics

Opening economics makes for better research, as well as more just and sustainable outcomes. Great progress was made in the last year, including YourTopia Italy, an award-winning multidimensional index of social progress; the Failed Banks tracker, a visualisation of the big bank failures during the recent financial crash; and a set of Open Economics Principles, which have been widely endorsed by the economics community including the World Bank’s Data Development Group.


Simulated Bubble Chamber

Crowdcrafting is a free platform for creating projects which need lots of people to take small actions. Since its launch in April, the uptake has been inspiring: around 150 investigations are currently being hosted on the site, including FrackFinder, a project to track the growth of highly controversial “fracking” for gas in the north-eastern U.S.; TweetClicker, which identified tweets relevant to disaster response teams during the devastating cyclone Yolanda; and Antimatter, investigating how antimatter particles respond to gravity. The tasks are designed for anyone to contribute: check it out.

Spending Stories

Open Spending rounded off a great year with the launch of the Spending Stories app, which enables citizens and journalists to make sense of the numbers in the news. What does it really mean that the UK school meals programme costs £6million per year? For one thing, that it costs about one fifth of annual spending on the monarchy…


This year’s OKCon saw 1000 of you join us for a profoundly engaging and passionate week of talks and workshops in Geneva. Inspiring talks from the likes of Jay Naidoo and Ellen Miller emphasised the social change potential of open data when applied to governance and development issues. Let’s make it 2000 for OKFestival in Berlin in 2014!

Open Data Index

This year saw the release of the Open Data Index, the product of an amazing community effort to assess the openness efforts of governments around the world. The Index will be a crucial benchmark in the coming years, enabling civil society to hold governments to account on their open promises.

Small Data

The big trend for Big Data is missing the more important revolution: #smalldata. As the cost of storage space plummets, there is a mass democratisation of data storage and processing. The real potential of the age of technology lies in the possibilities this creates for a decentralised, distributed ecosystem of data and knowledge – not in the centralisation and control of Big Data.

The Public Domain Review

Hailed as “magnificent…a model of digital curation” by the Guardian, the Public Domain Review has continued to build an incredible treasure trove of delights from across the public domain. The most popular posts this year were a dictionary of Victorian slang and illustrations from a Victorian book on magic, with the numerous other curios including a video of a dog’s head being revived. The Public Domain Review: making copyright questions cool.

School of Data

Open data alone does not empower people or produce change. Ordinary people need the skills to turn that data into knowledge: to use it to answer their questions and make the changes they want to see in the world. The School of Data has had an incredible year of sharing these skills across the globe, training over 1200 people from Nairobi to Bogota. There are now Portuguese and Spanish versions of the School as well, and altogether over 2000 have taken part in online trainings.


ambassador mosaic
Some of our amazing ambassadors

The last year has seen an incredible expansion of our Local Groups Network, now at over 40 worldwide. We want to say Thank You so much to all of you, all around the world, for your hard work, creativity, and dedication. It’s brilliant to ring in the new year with the launch of the Brazil Chapter, the first Open Knowledge Foundation Chapter in Latin America, and we’re looking forward to seeing many more successful transitions over the coming years. We can’t wait to celebrate our tenth birthday with all of our fantastic community during 2014.

Happy New Year everyone!

Open Knowledge recognised as key to democracy in the digital age

Christian Villum - December 10, 2013 in Featured, Open Government Data, Our Work, Transparency

Tonight the Open Knowledge Foundation will be honoured as a leading civic innovator at the National Democratic Institute’s thirtieth birthday celebrations (see the press release here). Other honourees will include Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia, Beth Noveck, founder of the Governance Lab in the U.S., and Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) works to strengthen democratic institutions worldwide, and it’s really exciting to see Open Knowledge recognised as a key part of achieving that mission in the digital age.

Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state for the US government and now chair of the NDI, has said: “The contributions of this group of individuals, as well as other civic innovators around the world, to promote citizen participation and government transparency and accountability are immeasurable. Innovation is an integral part of supporting both established and nascent democracies, especially as technology continues to shape and deepen the relationship between governments and their citizens.”

Democracy is entering a new era: one permeated by technology. The values of transparency and accountability in government are fundamental to the democratic ideal, but it is only with recent technological revolutions that their potential has really begun to be tapped. For the first time, citizens can access the transcripts of parliament, the details of government budgets, and the texts of the laws that govern them – at the click of a button.

Financial Bubbles (v2) xcolour

This has profound implications for the relationship between governments and their citizens. For the first time we can start to build societies where the many – not just the few – have access to the knowledge they need to understand and effect change. Equality of knowledge is essential for a deep democracy.

Through open government data, people can begin to answer the questions that matter to them, like which school is best for their children or where their taxes are going. They can gain a voice with their leaders like never before, helping them to build the world in which they want to live. And they can expose and prevent the corruption, both financial and electoral, which can fundamentally undermine democratic institutions.


The Open Knowledge Foundation has been at the forefront of this movement over the past decade. In 2010 we held the world’s first Open Government Data Camp in London, one of the earliest events to bring together government officials, hackers and citizen activists to share their visions and plans for opening up government data. Our CKAN software powers many of the world’s open government data portals, including those of the US government, the UK government, and the Brazilian government. And this year we released the first Open Data Index, which based on global community efforts ranks the world’s governments according to the openness of ten key datasets like emissions data and election data. The Index will be an important tool in holding governments to account over the coming years.


We have come a long way since the Open Government Data Camp in 2010, as today’s recognition by the NDI goes to show. It has been amazing to see the growth in support for the Open Government Partnership over the two years since it was launched, and many governments around the world have made commitments to increasing openness. But promises are not enough, and success is by no means guaranteed. We need to make sure that civil society is equipped with the tools and skills that they need to hold their governments to these promises.

We want a world in which government data is open by default. We want to connect those who face the biggest challenges – a healthcare worker in Zambia or an education campaigner in Pakistan – with the information they need to approach those. We want to see democracy become a deep social reality, powered by openness, transparency and accountability.

Follow events at the Democracy Dinner on #ndi30

The Global Open Data Initiative Needs Your Input

Guest - November 21, 2013 in Global Open Data Initiative, Our Work

This is a cross-post by Julia Keserü from the Sunlight Foundation, taken from both the Global Open Data Initiative blog and the Sunlight Foundation blog.

GODI organisations

Open Data has enormous unfulfilled promise to change how governments work and to empower citizenship. As more governments and issue experts discover new potential in the public release of data, civil society groups still need clear guidelines and mechanisms for cooperation.

The Global Open Data Initiative (GODI) is our attempt to more clearly outline the institutions, organizations, and policies that make up the global open data community and to help move forward. In serving as a global voice for open data, GODI hopes to act as a repository of information and evidence regarding open data policies and practices.

In order to do be able to do so, we now need your input. What are the challenges within your work with open data? What definitions and guidelines do you rely on to inform your work? Are there any resources that would be useful to your work but still missing? What are your experiences interacting with governments and funders about open data? What are your struggles that a global initiative might help resolve?

Please help us refine the next steps of the Global Open Data Initiative by filling out this short survey before November 29th.

Open Data professional services now available on G-Cloud 4

Open Knowledge International - November 8, 2013 in CKAN, Our Work, Services

We are pleased to announce that the Open Knowledge Foundation are now an approved supplier on the G-Cloud 4 Services Framework.

This means that it’s now even easier for UK government organisations to commission the Open Knowledge Foundation.

We are offering a range of services via G-Cloud including setting up and deploying a CKAN open data portal – perfect if you want to start publishing open data quickly.

We can also offer technical consultancy and support if you need bespoke features developed for your open data portal.

Our full list of services available via G-Cloud 4 are:

If you have any questions or would like to work with us via G-Cloud please get in touch on

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