OKFestival: Day Two Highlights & Wrap Up

What a Week!

Opening Ceremony OKFestival 14

Between five incredible keynotes, 70+ participatory sessions, an unFestival and countless fringe events, not to mention informal strategizing in the courtyards of the Kulturbrauerei, I am sure that we are all still taking some time to process all the information. Last week, our incredible volunteers put together a Day 1 roundup, highlighting all the exciting conversations that were taking place! Here is just a taste of what happened on Day 2!

We kicked off Day Two with a keynote from Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner responsible for the digital rights agenda, who called on the open movement to put the pressure on national governments to open up data in order to help create jobs and stimulate growth. She highlighted the need to change the mindset of public administrations, to show them that there is a better way, an open way. After a standing ovation from the audience, Eric Hysen had a tough act to follow and was up for the challenge!  He joined us on the OKFestival stage to highlight that open data is not enough and if we truly want to create more innovative societies, we *have* to build the necessary infrastructure. If you missed it, you can read it here.

If you missed the Thursday morning keynotes, you can watch them here:

Following the keynotes, OKFestival participants spread throughout the Kulturbrauerei to share, learn and innovate together in 30 different interactive sessions and at the unFestival. All thirty sessions and the unFestival would be difficult to recap in a single blog post but you can check out the etherpads for all the the sessions here or our Storify of day two!

Here are a few photos of the day:


Finally, because we were, after all, at a Festival, we ended with a live performance from Juliani, Valsero and The Swag. Thank you Artists Without a Cause!


Stay tuned, OKFestival official photos and videos are coming soon! In the mean time, if you want to help us tell the OKFestival story, please add your blogs to our list & your photos to our flickr pool.  Thanks for joining us in Berlin last week, it wouldn’t have been the same without each and everyone of you! 

Image Credit: Arte Pilpilean EgonOpenCorporates GalleryBurt Lum, Open Data Research Network , Mark Braggins

Open Development at OKFestival

OKFestival is upon us! The festivities kick off tomorrow! Open data and open knowledge enthusiasts from around the world will be descending on Berlin's hottest spot – the Kulturbrauerei – for the largest open knowledge gathering the world has ever seen! The OKFestival programme team have spent months curating two and a half action packed days of keynotes, participatory sessions and hacks but for the open knowledge community, 2 days was never going to be enough! Community members, excited to dig deeper and explore more, have organised additional sessions and workshops to fill the entire week so come early and stay late because you won’t want to be anywhere else this week.

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For the past two years, Open Development has been a core theme at our events and while this year we have not organised our programme around specific areas of knowledge, Open Development remains front and centre with three fringe events and a number of development focused sessions.

For development practitioners, researchers, civil servants, civil society representatives and anyone interesting in exploring the challenges and opportunities of open knowledge within the development context – here is just a taste of what the Open Development community has organised!

Fringe Events

Join the Partnership for Open Data first thing Tuesday morning for their Open Data Innovators Event. You will have a chance to hear from and discuss with open data leaders from Mexico and Burkina Faso who are driving innovation in their countries. We will also be announcing the winners of POD's first Open Data Impact Stories Competition! After, head on over to the Open Data in Developing Countries Research Sharing Seminar (waiting list only), to hear from ODDC partners as they share their findings  and discuss how to translate this research into action.

Post OKFestival, join the open development working group for an all day fringe event to further explore key themes that have emerged from the week, participate in sessions that we were not able to squeeze into the OKFestival programme and collectively develop new initiatives and action plans. This event is kindly sponsored by Making All Voices Count.

A Selection of Open Development Sessions

These workshops alone would probably be enough to get you to Berlin and we haven't even scratched the surface. Here are a few sessions to look forward to from the main Festival programme:

  • The Problem with Participation:The Problem With Participation will explore how the term “open” brings with it three fundamental challenges for people who live and operate outside of the “open knowledge” bubble: capacity, resources (including time), and privacy. Sessions participants will discuss and explore ideas on how to make “open” more “accessible.”

  • Tracking Development in the Open a series of  lightning talks showing five new platforms showing development data (most of which are open source and use open data), and then focus on discussing how to confront challenges based on experience of designing the existing platforms and using the data.

  • Opening Society in Challenging Contexts Exploring how can we ensure open government initiatives live up to their promise? The movement for more open, accountable governments is gaining momentum the world over. But too often, open government initiatives are deployed without careful designs that enable them to achieve their intended objectives.

Open Development is just one of the many sub-streams running through OKFestival. Don’t miss out – buy your ticket today and we will see you tomorrow!

OKFestival Stream Spotlight: Tools Stream

The Open Knowledge Festival's Theory of Change postulates that there are three levers of change,  knowledge informs change, tools enable change and society effects change  We’ve already taken a closer look at the Knowledge stream & the Society Stream and today we are are turning the spotlight on tools!

Tools connect society, facilitate the flow of knowledge and enable change.  But what are we talking about exactly when we say tools?

When the Open Community talks about tools we are often talking about tools crafted with technology. From the many open source projects that seek to increase transparency or access to information by making it easier for citizens to process, understand and analyse available data to the platforms that seek to improve government accountability by making it easier for citizens to directly connect with their representative – as a community we are pretty good at building tools with technology and that is awesome. However, sometimes the most powerful tools don't require technology at all and the best tools are the ones that result in the simplest solution to a given problem. Tools also happen to be designed and built by people, with all of our imperfections, and sometimes their use results in unintended consequences.

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The facilitators of Tools Stream sessions have set out to investigate everything from the can of spray paint to the smartphone and we can't wait to join them as we uncover how we can repurpose old tools as well as build new ones, all of which are designed to enable change! Finally, don’t fret, there will also be a hearty dose of good old fashion hacking.

Here is a small taste of the range of exciting session you will have the opportunity to participate in:

  • The Restart Project will lead us on an E-waste exploration where you will have the opportunity to open up your gadgets (literally open them up!) and look into what happens when they die. This mini-data expedition is designed to get people thinking about the lasting impacts of some of our favourite tools by examining the existing data on electronic waste and examining the inner-workings of our own devices.

  • Although usability tests have been proven to be a low-cost and effective method of making sure that your app or website is usable, few open source projects do usability tests. This is your chance to take part a Usability testing workshop to learn how facilitate your own usability tests!

  • So you want to publish some personal data as open data but don't want to end up on our list of Open Knowledge horror stories, join the Open Data Institute in a user friendly Hands-on anonymisation and risk control open data publishing workshop!

  • Join DATA Uruguay and Stef van Grieken in compiling a comprehensive of tools and resources for a Global Election Toolbox.

  • Commons Machinery will be leading us on a mission to Give credit when credit is due. Together, we will discuss how we can provide better support for including licensing or author information when sharing or reusing digital works and how all this should work in the open knowledge environment.

  • In Tools, Tools and more Tools: Building the Data Pipeline participants with find and explore tools to make use of open data taking into account the complete data pipeline.

Toolkits, Usability tests and E-Wastes explorations are just the beginning, check out the full list of tool stream session here.  There is still time – buy your OKFestival Tickets today!

OKCast at OKFestival: Explore, Connect & Inspire

The OKCast, hosted by Alex Fink, is a weekly blog and podcast exploring the many facets of open knowledge. Through interviews, stories and project spotlights, the podcast seeks to connect and inspire involvement in open knowledge projects around the world.


In the lead up to OKFestival, the OKCast will be conducting a series of mini-interviews with OKFestival session facilitators! In fact, they have already started! You can follow the interviews series here or check out past interviews with Shannon DosemagenKristina Alexanderson and Nancy Schwartzman. These are short spotlights on the sessions and the people behind them – a perfect teaser for what what you can expect from our action packed festival lineup! There are more interviews to come so make sure you follow along!

The OKCast will also be at OKFestival interviewing our inspiring keynote speakers and meeting all of you! Do you have questions that you are dying to ask Patrick Alley, Neelie Kroes, Ory Okolloh, Beatriz Busaniche, or Eric Hysen? The OKCast will be posting hashtags to follow so make sure that you send in your questions and tune in to hear them answered live!

Finally, the OKCast wants to meet you! The goal of these podcasts is to explore, connect and inspire open knowledge projects from around the world and Open Knowledge Festival is the best opportunity, as the largest open knowledge event in the world, to meet the people behind the projects face to face. Please approach Alex or tweet him @theokcast and introduce yourself.

Think Twice Before You Open Knowledge: When OK might become Oh No

This is a guest blog post by Alix Dunn &  Tin Geber from the The Engine Room Lindsay Beck of the National Democratic Institute and Mushon Zer-Aviv from The Public Knowledge Workshop 

As we head to Berlin from all around the world with bright eyes and a thirst for (open) knowledge, hoping to learn, meet and share with like-minded individuals at the OKFest, we want to take the opportunity to ask: Does “open” always lead to good? Can the rush to release data publicly work against the public interest?


There is a clear increase in the use of open data to tackle development challenges and to politically align with the spirit of transparency. The number of countries joining the Open Government Partnership continues to grow, the new Post-2015 Development Goals call for a “data revolution”, innovative development funding structures like Making All Voices Count show a clear shift towards the greater transparency and accountability through ICT and open processes.

In short, “open” is the buzzword du jour. As with all buzzwords and buzz concepts, noncritical adoption of tactics can result in unintended consequences. The Open Knowledge Festival is designed to highlight the shining opportunities that open data and openness present for changing the world for the better. We’ve been ambassadors for the value of openness, arguing for its benefits for governments, commerce, science and culture. But rarely do we get the chance for a healthy dose of good old skepticism.

In an effort to share experiences, concerns, and concrete harm stories about the way open can come back to bite the best-intentioned, we decided to organize the OKFest 2014 panel “Can Open Data Go Wrong?”. In this session we will have an open, critical discussion around examples of open data used in unintended and harmful ways.  Some examples we will be discussing include:

  • Open Budget. Governments are trying to be more open about their spending. Publishing budgets online is a clear way of increasing transparency and accountability in the process. But what if that process fails to capture real-time adjustments and modifications that sometimes subvert entire budget lines?

  • Land Data. Land deals are notoriously complicated and difficult to define. There are enormous commercial pressures on land, and transactions are sometimes kept purposefully obscure to influence market prices. What happens when an organization decides to map large-scale land acquisitions without considering all the implications of publishing such an inherently complex dataset?

  • FOIA compliance. The speed and flexibility of a government to act upon Freedom of Information Act requests can be an important indicator of that government's commitment to transparency, and of a healthy communication between government and civil society. However, due to the complexity of presenting FOIA compliance, visualizing FOIA information can present an incomplete picture and potentially misleading figures.

  • Health data. Aggregates of health data from national health services can be opened up for statistical analysis, and might provide a useful tool for research. But what happens if anonymization fails, or if personally identifiable information can still be inferred through corollary data, like geolocation? How to gauge the right balance between public service and personal privacy?

We want you

We will do our best to recruit other participants at the OKFest to present illustrative real world examples. We also know there is much more out there that's not on our radar — perhaps because no one has ever talked about it. If YOU have an open data horror story or want to discuss a different angle of open data gone wrong, get in touch: send us an email, contact us on twitter @engnroom or use the hashtag #OKOHNO!

Fireside Chat Spotlight: Ory Okolloh

Last week we announced our four incredible keynote speakers and while you may have thought it was impossible for the lineup to get any better, we are here to tell you – it can!

Today's spotlight is on OKFestival’s surprise special guest, the world renowned Kenyan activist, lawyer and blogger, Ory Okolloh. Ory will join us on the OKFestival Stage for a fireside chat about social entrepreneurship and the future of technology and activism.


Ory is a woman driven by passion, who is currently working as a Director of Investments for the Omidyar Network Africa where she supports social entrepreneurs and citizens as they work to build transparent and accountable societies. She has always been at the forefront of technology innovation and prior to joining the Omidyar Network, she was developing the type of revolutionary platforms which she now makes it her mission to support. She is a founding member of Ushahidi in addition to being the co-founder of Mzalendo, a website that tracks the performance of Kenyan Members of Parliament. She is a board member of the African Media Initiative, a member of the World Bank's Council of Eminent persons, an advisory board member of Code for All, Amnesty International East Africa, and the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Internet Advisory Group.

Whether she is building revolutionary platforms, supporting engaged activists and citizen journalists or fighting for increased transparency and accountability from government, Ory Okolloh knows how to use technology to empower positive social change.

Here is a sneak peak Ory speaking at a TED conference in 2011; as you may be able to see, we have a lot to look forward to!

Join Ory Okolloh for OKFestival in Berlin this July for the chance to ask this social technology pioneer and esteemed activist your burning questions; then, join the rest of the open knowledge community for two jam packed days of translating those ideas into actions.

Don't miss out, buy your OKFestival tickets today.


Open Knowledge Festival Spotlight: Society Stream

In this 3-post series, we turn the spotlight to the the narrative streams of this year’s Open Knowledge Festival. We’ve already highlighted the Knowledge stream; today’s stream of choice is Society. This stream is kindly supported by the Omidyar Network, although all sessions within the stream remain editorially independent.

“Knowledge and tools are never developed independent of society. What we know is a shaped by our experiences and tools we develop reflect our needs and our perspective. For open knowledge to effect change, we need to explore the role society, people, cultures and perspectives, play in the change process.”

The Society Stream at OKFestival will explore how communities are designing open institutions,  holding governments and corporations to account, developing open business models, ensuring the protection of privacy and ultimately shaping a more equitable world. We will explore how different contexts affect and cultural norms interact with open principles in the aim of deepening our understanding about how to to build more equitable societies. Here is just a taste of what you are in for:

Towards Transparent and Accountable Institutions: 

By opening up data and democratising access to information, citizens are better able to monitor how governments are spending money on their behalf or to determine where corporations are sourcing their materials. In the Society Stream we will take a closer look at how citizens using data and information to create more accountable and more transparency societies.

Citizens have the right to know how governments spend public money  and the creation of a usable and flexible Open Contracting data standard will ensure that, as the Open Contracting movement gathers pace, partners across the world can gain access to ‘joined up data', supported by an ecosystem of tools and services, rather than facing many silos of disjointed contracting data. These efforts are intended to complement other efforts by organisations such as the Stop Secrets Contract campaign supported by Open Knowledge and others.

 City governments have to navigate their legal and institutional framework, political willingness and the capacity to be open. However, they must also consider the state of their data and the implications on the demand for open data,the choice of technology and its influence on democratising data creation and use, and the role of citizens and intermediaries in opening up a city. The session is unique as it allows for joint conversations among government officials from the four cities as well as groups that engage with them. The discussions will be situated in the intersection of data, technology and citizen participation, and will aim to develop a policy, advocacy and implementation road map for open cities that governments can adopt to respond to their local contexts.

Society Stream

Beyond Access: Opening Up Institutions and Processes through Participation

In the Society Stream we will move beyond access to look at how we can use participatory practices to open up traditionally closed institutions and processes.

This session will facilitate the learning process of embedding Public Lab methodology into DIY style making for environmental good. In this session, participants will learn the importance of grassroots co-creation in conceptualising tools and techniques for environmental health monitoring. It will demonstrate the importance of community involvement in methodological design, from the first step of problem identification, to show how open hardware and software tools can be scaled and replicated into other locations.

For more details on this session, check out Shannon’s interview with OKCast here

The UK Cabinet office will lead us in crowdsourcing ideas for a manifesto for an open data era – a social contract between government and citizens. By engaging people in the lead up to OKFestival using social media and then over the course of the 2 days of the festival, this session will collect ideas for inclusion in the manifesto that will ultimately be collaboratively drafted on the second day. At the end we will leave the manifesto online & invite people to comment on it over the following month.

Power, Surveillance and the Dark Side of Opening Up 

We recognise that opening up information and processes often challenges entrenched power structures and in the Society Stream we will explore how power and inclusion as well as government surveillance and privacy impact our ability to effect change.

What does creating knowledge access, designing tools for knowledge sharing, and implementation of “open society” mean for all users in context? When thinking about “open” in government, data, and society, the contextual factors that affect people's needs often go neglected. These factors, in all their challenge and complexity, are important pieces of the open society puzzle.Drawing on an example from Reboot’s work, when building a citizen feedback tool to encourage engagement between government officials and citizens in Nigeria, we were working within political constraints affecting how, when, where, and what kind of service delivery would work. We also recognised cultural, logistical, and geographic challenges that affect people’s emotions and behaviours.

Open Government created a global movement using public data to create a better world. Snowden’s revelations about the role of NSA and other agencies spying on citizens came as a shock to the international open government community. How should we address illegal surveillance from an open government perspective? How should the open government community react to threats to privacy and other fundamental human rights? How do we address address issues related to data traffic and surveillance? This session will explore ethical, normative and empirical approaches to secure fundamental human rights in an age of open government and open data. The session aims to address a usually ignored yet crucial issue about human rights, open data and surveillance.


This year, Omidyar are sponsoring the Society track and we're grateful to them for supporting conversations about the many ways knowledge and society intersect. Sessions in this track remain editorially independent unless marked as a sponsored session.

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