What is the Open Knowledge Foundation (for me) and Why should I want to join?
You can read all about the OKF via their website, blogs, projects and much more… But I want to tell you what OKF is to me (and why it is different for everyone). Most importantly, I want to try and get you to volunteer your skills as a citizen because ‘open’ is the most important idea of our generation.
What is “Open Knowledge”?
As a developer I first encountered OKF with a viewpoint that it was another organisation pushing ‘Open Source Software’. Little did I know, how much bigger of an idea ‘Open Knowledge’ is. ‘Open Source Software’ is just one of many types of ‘Open Knowledge’. How much bigger? Well, take the sector I work in: Academia, specifically Universities. Here is just a quick fly-by list of all the different A to Z of ‘Opens there are in Universities’. Now try and imagine all the ‘Opens’ there are in a sector like Government or Business or Military or in your sector?
Why should I care about ‘Open Knowledge’
Naturally, Academic and Government sectors are more likely to care about ‘Open Knowledge’ than say, Military or Business sectors. But is this the correct assumption?
At the heart of my choice to be part of OKFN is a belief that ‘Open Knowledge’ is the only way that we as a global society can advance our civilisation. Democracy can only survive the onslaught of media spin if we make the knowledge (by which are politician make decisions) transparent. NOTE: I am not saying that everything should be ‘open’ and in fact my personal blog titled ‘opening walled gardens’ is about examining hot to build walled gardens (to create value) as well as open-up walled gardens to share that value.
“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.” -from The Whole Earth Catalogue-
So why join OKF? Or, what will I do in being part of the OKF network in Australia?
This is what I’ve done with OKF thus far (having lived in the UK and Europe the past ten years participating in various activities):
- Come along to one of the local ‘meet-ups’ and hear people talk passionately about what should be opened up, e.g. let’s talk about Melbourne transport data and having an App that notifies you in the morning when trains are running late,
- Help de-obfuscate public spending data like the MP expenses scandal in England that showed how politicians were using taxes to have their moates cleaned,
- Wrangle data into new and interesting forms so that new visualisations and infographics can be produced to get good ideas out there.
- Write and help contribute to data journalism posts that inform fellow citizens with data, instead of spin.
- Experience literature and poetry in new digital artistic forms and experiment yourself,
- Help write a book on new open knowledge skills like data journalism,
- Work with developers to create new and beautiful collections that future generations will want to use and build upon,
- Petition those who will not open their data (and yet are not getting any value out of it), e.g. did you know your taxes here in Australia pay for researchers to write research that you’ll never get to see?!,
- Learn something new while hanging out with vibrant and enthusiastic revolutionary people, who don’t sit around watching their social lives stream across a screen (sorry bookfacers 😉
Above all else, OKF is a network of people who actually care about the affect we have on the world around us. Information is powerful and if organised in the open to inform our decisions it becomes very powerful knowledge.
= fundamental to politician making decisions is having the right information at the right time. These means that all sectors (especially Academia) needs to make its knowledge open so that our governments can make informed choices. Likewise, a business or even military must need to consider when opening up information is important so that everyone is working in the know.