The Prototype Fund is a public program run by Open Knowledge Foundation Germany that focuses on emerging challenges and radically new solutions. Individuals and small teams can apply for funding to test their ideas and develop open source tools and applications in the fields of civic tech, data literacy, data security and more. The 5th round of the Fund is currently open for applications until 30 September: in this blog Katharina Meyer shares more on its contents and on how to apply.

Letting machines learn: technologies for the future

New technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are on everyone’s lips – but mostly not in our hands. With the focus of the 5th call for applications we want to encourage more people to participate in shaping these new technologies and have a stake in our future. We want to find out what opportunities new technological developments offer to society. How much of this hype is righteous, what are the risks, how can we gain a better insight into the emergence of technologies and influence this process?

Artificial intelligence is an example of the challenges we face in the verge of tomorrow’s technologies. The development of intelligent systems is only accessible to a few people and companies because the technologies are highly specialized. The amount of data needed to train the machines is often owned by large corporations and platforms. The development of new technologies and intelligent systems is often directed towards industry or embedded in the theoretical framework of universities.

To ensure that emerging technologies reflect social reality and do not discriminate against people, we need to incorporate a wide range of experience and expertise into their development. We also aim to better understand what exactly we are talking about when we say AI and demystify technology.

We therefore especially encourage software projects to apply, which deal with the following questions as part of their conceptual and practical work:

  • Which social topics can be better explored and addressed with the help of machine learning, and how?
  • How can new technologies help us address (and reduce) existing injustice instead of reinforcing it?
  • Explaining and understanding new technologies: How do Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence work? What are the challenges, myths and opportunities?

We are not seeking to apply new technologies to random problems, but instead to examine developments and fields of application in detail and placing people and their needs at the centre of technical development. In a blog post (in German) we have collected projects and ideas that illustrate our main topic. Projects outside this focus can also be supported if they are in the areas of digital infrastructure, data security, data literacy or civic tech.

How to apply

Applications are open to individuals and small teams who live in Germany. You can read more about the fifth round and apply at The projects we currently support can be found here.


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Katharina is part of the Prototype Fund team, where she oversees the communication, outreach, and evolution of the program. She is a historian of technology, researching social development environments and curating knowledge and objects for museums, projects or conferences such as re:publica.