ⓘ Open Knowledge Foundation


ⓘ Open Knowledge Foundation

Open Knowledge Foundation is a global, non-profit network that promotes and shares information at no charge, including both content and data. It was founded by Rufus Pollock on 20 May 2004 and launched on 24 May 2004 in Cambridge, UK. It is incorporated in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee. Between May 2016 and May 2019 the organisation was named Open Knowledge International, but decided in May 2019 to return to Open Knowledge Foundation.


1. Aims

The aims of Open Knowledge Foundation are:

  • Promoting the idea of open knowledge, both what it is, and why is it a good idea.
  • Running open knowledge events, such as OKCon.
  • Acting at UK, European and international levels on open knowledge issues.
  • Providing infrastructure, and potentially a home, for open knowledge projects, communities and resources. For example, the KnowledgeForge service and CKAN.
  • Working on open knowledge projects, such as Open Economics or Open Shakespeare.

2. People

In November 2018 Catherine Stihler was appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of Open Knowledge Foundation. She joined the organisation in February 2019. Between 2015-2017 Pavel Richter took on the role of CEO of Open Knowledge Foundation. Pavel was formerly Executive Director of Wikimedia Deutschland.

The Open Knowledge Foundation Advisory Council includes people from the areas of open access, open data, open content, open science, data visualization and digital rights. In 2015, it consisted of:


3. Operations

Many of Open Knowledge Foundations projects are technical in nature. Its most prominent project, CKAN, is used by many of the worlds governments to host open catalogues of data that their countries possess.

The organisation tends to support its aims by hosting infrastructure for semi-independent projects to develop. This approach to organising was hinted as one of its earliest projects was a project management service called KnowledgeForge, which runs on the KForge platform. KnowledgeForge allows sectoral working groups to have space to manage projects related to open knowledge. More widely, the project infrastructure includes both technical and face-to-face aspects. The organisation hosts several dozen mailing lists for virtual discussion, utilises IRC for real-time communications and also hosts events.


3.1. Operations Advocacy

Open Knowledge Foundation is an active partner with organisations working in similar areas, such as open educational resources.

Open Knowledge Foundation has produced the Open Knowledge Definition, an attempt to clarify some of the ambiguity surrounding the terminology of openness, as well as the Open Software Service Definition. It also supported the development of the Open Database License ODbL.

Outside of technology, Open Knowledge Foundation plays a role in advocating for openness broadly. This includes supporting the drafting of reports, facilitating consultation and producing guides.

Rufus Pollock, one of Open Knowledge Foundations founders, and current board secretary sits on the UK governments Public Sector Transparency Board.


3.2. Operations Technical

The foundation places a strong interest in the use of open source technologies. Its software projects are hosted on GitHub, which utilises the Git version control software. Some of the projects are listed below:

  • Open Knowledge Forums
  • Open bibliography, broadly construed as efforts to catalogue and build tools for working with and publishing bibliographic resources, with particular emphasis on those works that are in the public domain and public domain calculators. Examples include the Bibliographica, Public Domain Works, Open Shakespeare, Open Text Book and The Public Domain Review projects.
  • Open geodata
  • Frictionless Data, a collection of standards and tools for publishing data.
  • Information Accessibility Initiative
  • "Get the Data" - a web-site for questions and answer on how to get data sets.
  • Datahub, a community-run catalogue of useful sets of data on the Internet. Depending on the type of data and its conditions of use, Datahub may also be able to store a copy of the data or host it in a database, and provide some basic visualisation tools.
  • Guide to open data licensing
  • CKAN, a tool that provides store for metadata. This enables governments to quickly and cheaply provide a catalogue of their data.
  • OpenGLAM, an initiative that promotes free and open access to digital cultural heritage, held by GLAMs: Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. OpenGLAM is co-funded by the European Commission as part of the DM2E Digitised Manuscripts to Europeana project.
  • POD - Product Open Data
  • Open Economics


3.3. Operations Panton Principles and Fellowships Open data in Science

The Panton Principles for Open Data in Science in 2010 had large contributions from Open Knowledge people and in 2011 Jonathan Gray and Peter Murray-Rust successfully obtained funding from OSF for two fellowships, held by Sophie Kershaw and Ross Mounce. In 2013 OKF obtained sponsorship from CCIA for 3 fellowships, which were awarded to Rosemarie Graves, Sam Moore and Peter Kraker.


3.4. Operations Other

Open Knowledge Foundation also supports Apps for Europe, and D-CENT, a European project created to share and organise data from seven countries, which is running from October 2013 to May 2016.