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OKFestival Call for Proposals ending soon! Submit your proposal now!

Beatrice Martini - March 26, 2014 in Events, Join us, OKFest, OKFestival, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

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We extended the deadline to give you an extra 2 weeks to come up with unusually brilliant, inventive, participatory session proposals for OKFestival 2014, but we’re getting very close to crunch-time now! This Sunday, March 30th, is the final deadline to submit the session you want to run at the festival. Then it’s over to our expert Programme Team to start selecting the proposals that will shake things up, get things done and all round inspire people at this year’s event.

Don’t miss your chance to submit an amazing idea! We’d love to see you to run an immersive, exploratory, ground-breaking session that challenges the boundaries of the Open Movement and gets things moving forward! So submit your proposal now, and hopefully we’ll be seeing you in Berlin in July.

If you want to collaborate with others, use our OKFestival Mailing List to find yourself the perfect partner, or shout out on Twitter using #OKFest14. Either way, get planning and make sure your submission is with us by Sunday 30th March.

From Health in the UK to Education in Nigeria – Stop Secret Contracts

Theodora Middleton - March 24, 2014 in Campaigning, Featured, Open Government Data, Public Money, Stop Secret Contracts

Today it was announced that fraud and error in the UK National Health Service are leading to the loss of around £7 billion each year. This could pay for about 250,000 new nurses, and comes at a time when the service is struggling more than ever under the pressures of austerity.

One of the main ways that money is lost is overcharging and underdelivery by contractors. Outsourcing of health provision to unaccountable contractors is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and it provides fertile ground for fraud and corruption. And the public has no effective means of redress when things go wrong.

In Nigeria, civil society groups are being denied access to crucial contracts being drawn up to bring about educational reforms. Nigeria has been found to be the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, and educational reform is undoubtedly needed.

But information about the contracts involved is being masked by “commercial sensitivity.” The lack of transparency stifles participation, reducing the likelihood of genuine innovation. An inclusive education system which meets the needs of all Nigerians will not be achieved when the process is shrouded in secrecy.

Across the world, contracting is the aspect of government which is most open to abuse. Governments hide behind claims of commercial sensitivity or national security to avoid exposing their contracts to public scrutiny.

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This month we launched our Stop Secret Contracts campaign, calling on world leaders to open up the procurements process. At the most basic level, the contracting data must be made available to the public. This includes:

  1. The full text of contracts;
  2. Key documents such as pre-studies, bid documents, performance evaluations, guarantees, and auditing reports;
  3. Information about contract formation, such as planning process, procurement method, and evaluation criteria;
  4. Information about performance and completion, such as delivery schedules, status of implementation, payments and risk assessments.

But we also want to see stronger commitments towards participation and accountability, as laid out in the Open Government Guide. As contractors play a growing role in the delivery of public services everywhere, we must ensure that we do not lose democratic control over vital aspects of our societies.

We need YOU to help us spread the word. We need you to sign the petition so that this issue is taken seriously by the G20 and OGP. Organisations who are working on this crucial problem need to be able to show that many voices are united behind them.

Once you’ve signed, there’s more you can do to help. You could write a blog post – like our Bangladesh and Sweden Local Groups have done. You could follow @StopSecretContracts, and retweet interesting and relevant things using #SecretContracts. You could join the Open Contracting Partnership’s community of practice to get more involved with policy conversations. You could start contributing to the C20 Conversations, the civil society engagement process around this year’s G20 in Australia – especially in the governance group. You could check out the list of supporting organisations: if any of them are local to you, why not get in touch and see if you can help them push forward?

There’s a whole load of resources available if you’d like to learn more about open contracting and why it matters. The Open Contracting Partnership have produced these Global Principles for Open Contracting, and the Sunlight Foundation has these complementary guidelines for open data in procurements. This report, Publish What You Buy makes the case for openness, and this entry in the Open Government Guide is a great starting point for understanding the issues and the kinds of political commitments we need to see.

From next Monday we will be publishing a series of blog posts from different organisations who are supporting the Stop Secret Contracts campaign. If you have stories to share about the problems of secrecy in contracting, get in touch with

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.

Is this microphone on? Sharing Open Knowledge Feedback (Part 2)

Heather Leson - March 19, 2014 in Open Knowledge Foundation

Feedback and impact are buzzword bingo words lately. There are few articles or grant applications that miss mentioning them. Rightly so. Feedback is core to change and true engagement in any organization or community. This part of the much needed global pulse check as we move towards a more interactive and collaborative world. Your responses to the community survey informed some of our January team meeting sessions and have infused our plans for the year. (Thank you.) Last month we wrote about who the Open Knowledge community was based on your community survey results. Digging into your feedback has truly provided us perspective. We’ve been quietly planning and rethinking.

Data is only bits until you analyze, make some observations and action it. I focused on reviewing your responses to to key questions: what do you think is critical for Open Knowledge and what needs improvement? From that review, I made a top 10 priority list of things that the we could do to better support your Open Knowledge experience:

The Open Knowledge Community Top 10:

  1. You attend events and want more.
  2. We need to make it easier to Get involved in the Open Knowledge community and any associated projects. You want Open Knowledge to be diverse and inclusive.
  3. Open Knowledge should provide more community resources.
  4. We connect you to each other in the global open knowledge space. You want us to make this easier for you.
  5. Open Knowledge is a community of data makers and folks who want us to provide ways for you to gain more technical skills or do skillshares.
  6. You want want us to keep the momentum on lobbying for policy and advocacy.
  7. You want us to be more transparent about our work. And, you want to us to transparently share stories about open data – both the good things and the barriers/things that don’t work.
  8. You want to join us on the important journey to support and teach governments, businesses and civil society to open data.
  9. Your Open Knowledge needs more translation. (Quick plug of thanks for all the folks who offered to help on this!)
  10. You want us to build spaces for more open collaboration and involve you.

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In your own words

We want to give you voice. Here are some community quotes about what you think is critical and what’s need improving at Open Knowledge:

Connecting the movement worldwide for international projects. – Nuno Moniz

The connections between OKF activists in different countries are not very strong in my experience. I think it would be good to find ways to link people working on similar issues in different countries. Not sure what are the most effective ways to do that, though. Joonas Pekkanen

Solutions for global challenges like justice,climate changes,cultural matters. Judith Mutange

Fighting lobbies and, at a technological level, interoperability and trust. Ana Alice Baptista

It’s difficult to join projects which are already running at full speed (not just OKF ones), but your more developed ones already do a good job of marking tasks as “easy for new contributors” so my only suggestion would be to encourage projects to do this (more), it’s really helpful. (Anonymous)

Building ICT skills so more people can participate outside of privileged cities.(Anonymous)

Making communities aware, making everyday Joe aware that he can hold the government accountable, that he can read the latest research and that these are basic rights he should be fighting for. Nevelina Aleksandrova

More local makers meet-ups, help improves data-literacy as part of the commons of web-literacy. Yann “shalf” Heurtaux

One point that I see clearly is that OKFN used to be focused more on technology, while now it’s much more about advocacy, which isn’t my core interest, so I ceased to be as involved in OKFN’s activities as I was before. This is illustrated well by the changes in line-up of OKCons. (Anonymous)

Constructing a clear narrative that goes beyond open data, and articulates a clear critique of the alternative ways intellectual property and knowledge sharing is, and might, develop. (Anonymous)

I don’t contribute enough. I think it would perhaps be useful to have a little more on terms of ref, how to engage and why etc if this was clearer up front you would know your obligation and perhaps be able to execute it better. (Anonymous)

The open knowledge foundation likes stories of success – that’s good so.But open knowledge foundation does not like stories of obstacles, barriers, difficulties. that’s not so good. (Anonymous)

Bringing in a wider group of people – diversity not just in gender, geography, language and race but also in terms of occupations, interests, backgrounds. OKFN is doing great work but the open knowledge concept is still much more widely applicable than the areas we have been focusing on so far!. (Anonymous)

Some communities use Stackoverflow, Ideascale or Ideavibes to keep feedback loops open. As your community leaders, we need to find better ways to know the pulse and give you more opportunities to shape Open Knowledge. We’ll keep looking into how we can better provide these avenues. If you have ideas on this please share on the OKFN-Discuss list, add a note to this post or contact us.

Next week: I’ll share some details about how we will incorporate your feedback with clear, shareable actions. You’ve given us a clear mandate. We aim to co-build with you.

(photo credit: Heather Leson (October 2013) The Crystal Sustainable Cities Initiative: Safe and Sound Exhibition)

Deadline to submit your OKFestival 2014 session proposals extended to March 30!

Beatrice Martini - March 14, 2014 in Events, Featured, Join us, News, OKFest, OKFestival

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  • Event: OKFestival – July 15-17, 2014. Berlin, Germany.
  • Call for Proposals: Find the call, FAQs and the submission form here
  • Deadline: Deadline extended! New deadline to submit your proposals is March 30, 2014.
  • Tickets: Early Bird tickets are now on sale!

This year’s OKFestival Call for Proposals was due to end on Sunday and our spreadsheets were filling up with dozens of amazing session amazing sessions ideas over the last few weeks. We’ve had lots of questions from you about your proposals, answered heaps of Twitter messages asking for hints about the best way to design a workshop, and hosted live helpouts to talk about how you can collaborate with each other.

So, excited by your enthusiasm and fuelled by your contagious energy, we have decided to extend the deadline for this year’s proposals.

You now have two full extra weeks!New deadline: March 30. And this time we’re serious!

Keep sending your brilliant, groundbreaking, collaborative proposals. We’re looking forward to reviewing them all!

“Open-washing” – The difference between opening your data and simply making them available

Christian Villum - March 10, 2014 in Open Data

(This is the English version of the Danish blog post originally posted on the Open Knowledge Foundation Danish site and translated from Danish by Christian Villum, “Openwashing” – Forskellen mellem åbne data og tilgængelige data)


Last week, the Danish it-magazine Computerworld, in an article entitled “Check-list for digital innovation: These are the things you must know“, emphasised how more and more companies are discovering that giving your users access to your data is a good business strategy. Among other they wrote:

(Translation from Danish) According to Accenture it is becoming clear to many progressive businesses that their data should be treated as any other supply chain: It should flow easily and unhindered through the whole organisation and perhaps even out into the whole eco-system – for instance through fully open API’s.

They then use Google Maps as an example, which firstly isn’t entirely correct, as also pointed out by the Neogeografen, a geodata blogger, who explains how Google Maps isn’t offering raw data, but merely an image of the data. You are not allowed to download and manipulate the data – or run it off your own server.

But secondly I don’t think it’s very appropriate to highlight Google and their Maps project as a golden example of a business that lets its data flow unhindered to the public. It’s true that they are offering some data, but only in a very limited way – and definitely not as open data – and thereby not as progressively as the article suggests.

Surely it’s hard to accuse Google of not being progressive in general. The article states how Google Maps’ data are used by over 800,000 apps and businesses across the globe. So yes, Google has opened its silo a little bit, but only in a very controlled and limited way, which leaves these 800,000 businesses dependent on the continual flow of data from Google and thereby not allowing them to control the very commodities they’re basing their business on. This particular way of releasing data brings me to the problem that we’re facing: Knowing the difference between making data available and making them open.

Open data is characterized by not only being available, but being both legally open (released under an open license that allows full and free reuse conditioned at most to giving credit to it’s source and under same license) and technically available in bulk and in machine readable formats – contrary to the case of Google Maps. It may be that their data are available, but they’re not open. This – among other reasons – is why the global community around the 100% open alternative Open Street Map is growing rapidly and an increasing number of businesses choose to base their services on this open initiative instead.

But why is it important that data are open and not just available? Open data strengthens the society and builds a shared resource, where all users, citizens and businesses are enriched and empowered, not just the data collectors and publishers. “But why would businesses spend money on collecting data and then give them away?” you ask. Opening your data and making a profit are not mutually exclusive. Doing a quick Google search reveals many businesses that both offer open data and drives a business on them – and I believe these are the ones that should be highlighted as particularly progressive in articles such as the one from Computerworld.

One example is the British company OpenCorporates, which offer their growing repository of corporate register data as open data, and thereby cleverly positions themselves as a go-to resource in that field. This approach strengthens their opportunity to offer consultancy services, data analysis and other custom services for both businesses and the public sector. Other businesses are welcome to use the data, even for competitive use or to create other services, but only under the same data license – and thereby providing a derivative resource useful for OpenCorporates. Therein lies the real innovation and sustainability – effectively removing the silos and creating value for society, not just the involved businesses. Open data creates growth and innovation in our society – while Google’s way of offering data probably mostly creates growth for…Google.

We are seeing a rising trend of what can be termed “open-washing” (inspired by “greenwashing“) – meaning data publishers that are claiming their data is open, even when it’s not – but rather just available under limiting terms. If we – at this critical time in the formative period of the data driven society – aren’t critically aware of the difference, we’ll end up putting our vital data streams in siloed infrastructure built and owned by international corporations. But also to give our praise and support to the wrong kind of unsustainable technological development.

To learn more about open data visit the Open Definition and this introduction to the topic by the the Open Knowledge Foundation. To voice your opinion join the mailing list for Open Knowledge Foundation.

OKFestival streams – concept and how to get help!

Katelyn Rogers - March 6, 2014 in Events, News, OKFest, OKFestival

At the Open Knowledge Foundation, we aspire to create environments that connect diverse audiences, thus enabling a diverse groups of thinkers, makers and activists to come together and collaborate to effect change. This year, the Open Knowledge Festival is fuelled by our theory that change happens when you bring together knowledge – which informs change - tools – which enable change – and society – which effects change. Whether you’re building better, cooler tech, creating stronger ideas for the open movement or aiming to shift the gears of society, this year’s OKFestival is the place for you; a place of diverse interests and learning experiences, highlighted by this year’s emphasis on collaboration across the three streams.


In the past, Open Knowledge Foundation events have been organised around topical streams. This has enabled us to grow the movement across communities as diverse as science, transparency, development and linguistics.

However, topical streams have a tendency to further entrench topical silos. Researchers working to open up academia, for example, could almost certainly benefit from learning about the experiences of their colleagues in other fields and from teaching others about their area of expertise. Everyone could benefit from some facetime with a maker who builds cool, useful technology in their sleep! At OKFestival 2014 we want to ensure this type of knowledge sharing in order to offer everyone the chance to cross-collaborate in meaningful, impactful ways. We can all recognise that issues such as privacy, data protection and net neutrality affect all domains within the open space, and we want to ensure that these issues are addressed and worked through from a diversity of perspectives to produce truly global solutions. In order to build an impactful open coalition which can effect change around the world, we need to draw on and incorporate the experiences and knowledge of multiple local communities. Only by avoiding such topical silos and building a cross-topic network of understanding and collaboration can we inform inclusive and context-appropriate open practices.


This year, we are mixing things up to achieve all of this and more! We are promoting cross-domain collaborations and urging you to collectively work through the complex problems that keep resurfacing. The individual sessions which are being submitted and proposed as we speak are pieces of this global puzzle, and this year’s Programme Team is responsible for putting that puzzle together. It’s a tough job, and we don’t want to do it alone, so if you want to start piecing it together before you submit your proposal, then collaborating with your colleagues who work in different spaces is a sure-fire way to create an interesting and attention-worthy session. We fully encourage you to reach out to those colleagues who you believe may hold a piece of your puzzle, and we’ve set up this mailing list for you to do just that.

We understand that by mixing things up, questions are sure to arise. That is why we have put together this handy page with tips and tricks for organising your session, booted that aforementioned mailing list for session organisers to discuss their proposals and foster new collaborations, and even organised two hangouts (Friday and Monday – pick one!) to give you the opportunity to ask questions and be inspired.

Finally, we need your help. We believe that at the heart of the open movement are values such as diversity and inclusivity. We need you to make sure that your OKFestival is as diverse and inclusive as possible, because as we all know, there’s so much more to learn that way. If you know awesome people who have something key to say about sharing knowledge, building amazing tools and stirring up society to make an impact, then send them our way. If that’s you, then what are you waiting for?! Start thinking about a collaborative, interactive and powerful session for OKFestival!

Tips & Tricks – A Hangout for OKFestival Session Planners

Beatrice Martini - March 5, 2014 in Events, Featured, Join us, News, OKFest, OKFestival

The Open Knowledge Festival call for session proposals is now open!

The better the proposals, the better the festival, so we’re inviting you to put on your thinking caps and come up with revolutionarily brilliant ideas for sessions at OKFestival 2014.

We know you can do it, and we know you’ll make this festival a huge success by bringing your input to it. To help you fine-tune your ideas –  and ask any burning questions  that you may have – the Festival Programme Team are going to be on hand via online hangouts over the next week to give you some pointers.


In fact, we’re happy to announce three new tools to help make the magic happen:

  • we’ve created a public mailing list which you can use to connect and team up with other session planners, to share ideas, plans and tips for OKFestival sessions

  • we’ve created a brand-new webpage on our festival site with tips to help you build and facilitate the best sessions possible for/at OKFestival

  • we’re hosting two live hangouts (links below) where you can ask for advice or input on your ideas from us, and exchange tips with each other to help make your proposal shine

Hangouts will be held on Friday, March 7 at 21:00 GMT (22:00 CET/ 13:00 PST/ 16:00 EST) and on Monday, March 10, at 10:00 GMT (11:00 CET/ 13:00 EAT/ 18:00 HKT). We’ll be interacting with you live via etherpad and Twitter – #okfestsessions – as well as via the Google+ Hangouts Q&A App where you can post your questions on the day. The hangouts will be streamed direct to our YouTube channel and G+ page.

If you can’t join us for whatever reason, don’t worry - the resultant YouTube videos will be archived so you can watch them later and you can also continue to read and contribute to the etherpad after the hangouts.

We’re looking forward to building this year’s programme with you!

The 2013 Open Reader – Stories and articles inspired by OKCon2013

Guest - March 4, 2014 in Featured Project, OKCon


This is a guest post from Andreas Von Gunten, founder of the Creative Commons-based publishing house Buch & Netz and editor of the brand new “The 2013 Open Read – Stories and articles inspired by OKCon2013″.

We all remember very well the fantastic OKCon / Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva last year. There were so many interesting and inspiring workshops from open data enthusiasts from all over the world, and it was a great honor for me to be able to publish an eBook and an online book about the themes and issues from the OKCon 2013.

Now «The 2013 Open Reader – Stories and articles inspired by OKCon2013: Open Data – Broad,Deep, Connected» is available for free until 16th March 2014. It includes blogposts, white papers, slides, journal articles and other types of texts from 45 speakers, workshop coordinators of this event and other contributors. Grab your copy now or read the content online at:

The eBook and its content is licensed under a CC-BY 3.0 license, so feel free to distribute the files and the links as you like.

What does open data mean to you?

Guest - March 4, 2014 in Open Data

Guest blog post is cross-posted from the Publish What You Fund blog.

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