For a fair, free and open future: celebrating 15 years of the Open Knowledge Foundation

Dear all,

Today marks a special day: 15 years ago, in May 2004, the Open Knowledge Foundation was launched with explicit objectives to promote the openness of all forms of knowledge - see our first ever blog post at Open Knowledge Foundation Launched – Open Knowledge Foundation blog.

From humble beginnings, we grew across the globe and pioneered the way the world uses data today, striving to build open knowledge in government, business and civil society - and creating the technology to make open material useful.

But now in 2019, our world has changed dramatically. Large unaccountable technology companies have monopolised the digital age, and an unsustainable concentration of wealth and power has led to stunted growth and lost opportunities. When that happens it is consumers, future innovators and society that loses out. As we reach an important milestone in our journey, we recognise it is time for new rules for this new digital world.

So we have decided to re-focus our efforts on why we were created in 2004, ‘to promote the openness of all forms of knowledge’, and return to our name as the
Open Knowledge Foundation . Our vision is for a future that is fair, free and open. That will be our guiding principle in everything we do. Read more in our anniversary blogpost.

On our 15th anniversary, we want to hear from you: what does “open” mean to you & your community? Let us know in this thread!

Finally, our biggest thanks to all of you for helping to build our open knowledge movement over the past years: we look forward to keep working together on a more open future :tada:

Best, Lieke Ploeger

Communications Officer
Open Knowledge Foundation


Hi, @liekeploeger!

Congratulations on the 15th anniversary of the Open Knowledge Foundation! I think this reflection on the meaning of “openness” is a good thing to do at an opportune time. It can mean so many things to many different people.

For me, “openness” has always about removing barriers to the potential use in the benefit of and in creating value for society.

In the context of open data, for instance, when someone needs some data that is inside a table in a PDF, the hurdle of having to use special software to scan the table or to manually type the thing again will cause people to give up using it. When the data is in a proprietary format that requires the acquisition of special software to use, some people will give up there as well. If the legal conditions for the use of data are unclear, some people will give up using it for fear of liability further down the line.

Now look at open government, which is based on transparency, participation and accountability in governments. Transparency removes barriers (the tendency to excessive secrecy) in getting enough information about what the government is doing. Participation mitigates some of the problems with the long feedback loop in representative democracy, where governments are slow to respond to the changing needs of society, as without it is heard from only during election cycles. Accountability makes sure there are procedures in place to ensure that public oversight is effective.

It may be possible to draw a common thread between those.

Then there is open content, works such as texts, music and video which is either in the public domain or openly licensed; open access, which aims to ensure public access to scholarly work; free and open source software, which allows access to and reuse of the source code of software programs; and even umbrella terms such as “open science”, which often require the use of several other open “paradigms”: open access, open data, open source, and even an “open” approach to patents resulting from research.

People have been advocating that things resulting from public funds should be released under an open “paradigm”. Software built from public resources should be released in the open and publicly funded research should use open science or at least be released under open access (e.g. in 2015 the OECD reviewed some countries’ policies on open access).

What is there in common between all of these concepts? Perhaps a permissive use culture, creating value for the collectivity, and network effects that boosts the benefits. What else? Share your thoughts.

yes to all of this. and then some. there are many facets to openness, and they all require the others to be implemented in order to maximize their potentials.
its also very frustrating having to explain to people in open fields, what other open facets are.