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Launching the Open Sustainability Working Group

- November 30, 2012 in Announcements, Call for participation, Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Featured, Open Data, Open Research

This blog post is written by Jorge Zapico, researcher at the Center for Sustainable Communications at KTH The Royal Institute of Technology and Velichka Dimitrova, Project Coordinator for Economics and Energy at the Open Knowledge Foundation and is cross-posted from the main blog.

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Sustainability is one of the most important challenges of our time. We are facing global environmental crises, such as climate change, resource depletion, deforestation, overfishing, eutrophication, loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, environmental pollution, etc. We need to move towards a more sustainable and resilient society, that ensures the well-being of current and future generations, that allows us to progress while stewarding the finite resources and the ecosystems we depend on.

Data is needed to monitor the condition of the environment and to measure how we are performing and progressing (or not) towards sustainability. Transparency and feedback is key for good decision-making, for allowing accountability and for tracking and tuning performance. This is true both at an institutional level, such as working with national climate change goals; at a company level, such as deciding the materials for building a product; and at a personal level, deciding between chicken and salmon at the supermarket. However, most of the environmental information is closed, outdated, static, or/and in text documents that are not possible to process.

For instance, unlike gross domestic product (GDP) and other publicly available data, carbon dioxide emissions data is not published frequently and in disaggregated form. While the current international climate negotiations at Doha discuss joint global efforts for the reduction of greenhouse gas emission, climate data is not freely and widely available.

“Demand CO2 data!” urged Hans Rosling at the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki last September#, encouraging a data-driven discussion of energy and resources. “We can have climate change beyond our expectations, which we haven’t done anything in time for” said Rosling in outlining the biggest challenges of our time. Activists don’t even demand the data. Many countries, such as Sweden, show up for climate negotiations without having done their CO2 emissions reporting for many months. Our countries should report on climate data in order for us to see the big picture.

Sustainability data should be open and freely available so anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it. This data should be easy to access, both usable for the public but also accessible in standard machine-readable formats for enabling reuse and remix. And by sustainability data we do not mean only CO2 information, but all data that is necessary for measuring the state of, and changes in, the environment, and data which supports progress towards sustainability. This include a diversity of things like: scientific climate data and temperature records, environmental impact assessment of products and services, emissions and pollution information from companies and governments, energy production data or ecosystem health indicators.

To move towards this goal, we are founding a new Working Group on Open Sustainability, which seeks to:

  • advocate and promote the opening up of sustainability information and datasets
  • collect sustainability information and maintain a knowledge base of datasets
  • act as a support environment / hub for the development of community-driven projects
  • provide a neutral platform for working towards standards and harmonization of open sustainability data between different groups and projects.

The Open Sustainability Working Group is open for anyone to join. We hope to form an interdisciplinary network from a range of backgrounds such as academics, business people, civil servants, technologists, campaigners, consultants and those from NGOs and international institutions. Relevant areas of expertise include sustainability, industrial ecology, climate and environmental science, cleanweb development, ecological economics, social science, sustainability, energy, open data and transparency. Join the Open Sustainability Working Group by signing up to the mailing list to share your ideas and to contribute.

Creating a more sustainable society and mitigating climate change are some of the very hardest challenges we face. It will require us to collaborate, to create new knowledge together and new ways of doing things. We need open data about the state of the planet, we need transparency about emissions and the impact of products and industries, we need feedback and we need accountability. We want to leverage all the ideas, technologies and energy we can to prevent catastrophic environmental change.

This initiative was started by the OKFestival Open Knowledge and Sustainability and Green Hackathon team including Jorge Zapico, Hannes Ebner (The Centre for Sustainable Communications at KTH), James Smith (Cleanweb UK), Chris Adams (AMEE), Jack Townsend (Southampton University) and Velichka Dimitrova (Open Knowledge Foundation).

Introducing OpenOil

- November 28, 2012 in Environment, Energy and Sustainability, External Projects, Featured, Open Data

About OpenOil and transparency

I work for a transparency organisation and small publishing house, called OpenOil. We work on resource curse issues: trying to ensure that citizens of resource-rich countries can reap the benefits of their natural resources. Since our beginning – just 16 months ago – we have run projects on site in Colombia, Iraq, Libya and, as of last Saturday, Uganda. All our work is released under Creative Commons License and is created using open-source software.

Telling people I work for an organisation called OpenOil always provokes some interesting and varied reactions, e.g.:

  • “Has an oil company paid you to come here?”
  • “But it’s time to move away from hydrocarbons, oil has terrible effects on the environment!”
  • “Wow, you must have a lot of work to do, surely improving the way the oil industry is run is a lost battle already”

In answer to the first – no, all of our funding is from the public sector – including the UNDP, the German Agency for International Cooperation and NGOs like Revenue Watch Institute and Internews, amongst others.

Secondly – yes, we know. We take the pragmatic approach that even by best estimates, we will not have a post-hydrocarbon economy for at least another 30 years, and until then oil will be generating huge revenues. This money could (and should) be used for the benefit of the citizens of resource-rich countries: not to fuel wars, or keep dictators in power, but to improve citizens’ quality of life, and ensure a smoother transition to greener energy.

The focus should indeed be on renewables, but in many oil-producing countries, it is the money from oil that will be funding the development of other energy sources. If this money is being wasted or lost in corruption and anti-transparent practices, it only reduces the amount of money that can be invested into better, long-term solutions to providing energy access.

And thirdly – yes, we do have a lot of work to do, but it’s most definitely not a waste of time. Recently, we have been working on oil industry contracts and there have been some questions about the aim of that project and the ideal outcome. We calculated that if African governments were able, on average, to increase their take of their natural resource revenue by just one percent, that would be the same as increasing development aid funds by 20 percent.

The gargantuan size of the oil industry means that even the tiniest increase in transparency and improvement in management could have huge effects on the lives of millions: we and other NGOs and initiatives think this is definitely worth a try.

Addressing issues of transparency: Oil wikis

OpenOil also acts as a publishing house. This happened almost organically – in 2009, I worked with the founder of OpenOil, Johnny West, on a UNDP project creating a wiki on the Iraqi oil industry. It was written using Media Wiki software, following Wikipedia editing guidelines – no original research, more of ‘digital curation’, pulling together information that is out there but is somewhat inaccessible. When OpenOil started in 2011, the idea of creating oil wikis came up again, and together with it, the concept of self-publishing: pulling out pages from the wiki to create hard copy books, or “Oil Almanacs”.

We developed a larger project based on the wikis and the idea of using the wiki to create a wider knowledge community around the extractive industries on a country by country basis. First we create the structure, as well as a few articles, then we run workshops in country for journalists or civil society on how to add to and edit the wiki, as well as a few of the more complex issues in the oil industry. At the end of the project, we hand over ownership of the local language wiki to their institute or organisation, based on the premise that it is easier to maintain if it is housed within a stable organisation than within a group of individuals.

So far, we have developed wikis (see ) for Colombia (also in Spanish), Ghana, Iran, Iraq (also in Arabic), Libya, Niger (also in French), South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. Work on building a Uganda wiki began just recently, as my colleague Amrit is in Kampala for the next 3 weeks, working with journalists from the Uganda Radio Network. All of the wikis are available on the internet, and we have printed out and distributed books in almost all of the relevant countries (except Iran and Niger so far).

Understanding oil contracts

Another main project has been around understanding oil contracts. As contract transparency is emerging as a norm of best practice, we wanted to provide people with a key tool to help understand complex contracts. The book was produced using the booksprint method, facilitated by Adam Hyde, founder of, which involved bringing together a group of 10 experts on the topic of oil contracts, and writing the book from start to finish in just one week. It has now been released under Creative Commons, and is free for download from our site.

We are now looking for ways to take this generic book forward, including running low-cost training courses, partnering with local organisations to produce country-specific versions, and expanding the scope of the book to include mining contracts. Next week, it will be distributed in Beirut to members of the Yemeni and Iraqi Publish What You Pay coalitions, as part of a workshop session on understanding contracts.

Other publishing ventures include a guide on publicly-available oil data, entitled Exploring Oil Data – A Reporter’s Handbook, which includes summaries of good blogs, Twitter feeds, consultancies and think tanks producing free materials, and a glossary of oil terms, also available now for download.

Ongoing projects include looking into the use of the flat rate dividend as a way of distributing oil wealth to citizens and getting rid of anti-poor fuel subsidies, as well as research papers on the Libyan oil industry. Through all of these efforts, we hope that combining an ‘open’ way of thinking to the secretive oil industry can have a positive effect on management of the industry, with knock on benefits to citizens of resource rich-countries.

To find out more about OpenOil, please go to or email zara.rahman(at) 


OKFestival Sustainability Stream Recap

- October 6, 2012 in Cleanweb, Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Events, Festival, Hackathon, Topics, Yourtopia

The open knowledge community came together in Helsinki for the one of the biggest events of the year: the Open Knowledge Festival, gathering for a week more than a thousand people from civil society, international institutions, government and businesses. The event run with parallel streams showing that open knowledge and open data are transforming government transparency and accountability, democracy, cities and transport, businesses, cultural heritage, research and education and other areas of the society and the economy.

Open Knowledge and Sustainability Stream examined the value of open knowledge, open data and open source for the sustainability context. The Open Economics Working Group (Velichka Dimitrova, Guo Xu, Dirk Heine), the Centre for Sustainable Communications at KTH (Jorge Zapico, Hannes Ebner) and Cleanweb UK (James Smith, Chris Adams) and Jack Townsend from Southampton University put together a programme showcasing why openness is an important value in a sustainable future, how open data and technology can help improve the measurement of social progress and the role of open data for more efficient energy consumption. The programme also included a Green Hackathon and two sessions about the community-engaged sustainability mapping initiative Green Maps.

Jack and Chris presented the results from the Sustainability stream on the last day: slides from summary session.

James Cameron: “Open data systems: a collective response to a collective problem”

In his keynote speech, James Cameron, founder and non-executive chairman of Climate Change Capital shared his vision about a complete open knowledge system, where decision-makers are able to view geophysical, climate and economic data on a single screen and are able to analyse the information, react in appropriate manner and realise a two-directional information flow. While a lot of the relevant data and elements of such a system exists, they are not joined up, as datasets in some institutions don’t talk to datasets in other institution. We still lack the right delivery mechanisms to make use of the potential that exists in open data and open knowledge.

CO2 emissions are a very good proxy for measuring and monitoring the performance of powerful actors in respect to the climate change issue. Initiative like the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has gone on to cover water and supply chain issues and government procurement – there is tremendous data in that space, but there is clearly much more that can be done with it in the next iterations of such projects. (Video link).

Hans Rosling: Liberate the CO2 data

Data visualisation and global development guru Hans Rosling provided some inspiring and sobering insights into the scale and immediacy of the environmental challenge. The ice is melting fast but Hans can get by without the polar bears – he’s most very keen to avoid a world that’s hungry or at war because of climate change. He railed against the lack of timely and accurate emissions data. He went on to challenge many of the misconceptions about global development – focussing on the arrogance of the global north for imagining the global south as it was thirty years ago, ignoring the human progress that has been made. With an ultra-low-tech toilet-paper-roll demonstration he showed how, even with birth rates now stabilising, we are still on course to reach around 10 billion people on the planet (Video link).

Open Knowledge and Energy Data

The Open Knowledge and Energy Data session gathered different perspectives related to energy data and openness: how sharing energy use information on the community level can help reduce energy consumption, how one can better manage and understand one’s personal energy data and the importance of linked open data in the energy context (Video link).

Karthikeya Acharya from Aalto University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture shared some theoretical concepts on how opening up energy use data at the end user level can make one reflect on one’s acquired personal energy habits and how this is relevant for energy conservation and the transitioning to a less-intensive energy future [Slides].

Ken Dooley, Sustainability Group Manager of Granlund, spoke about how the availability of personal energy consumption data can promote positive behaviour change by providing a consumption comparison with peers. He showed how such comparisons can give some people the ability to prove that they are living a low energy lifestyle and will motivate others to reduce their consumption [Slides].

William Heath, entrepreneur and co-founder of Mydex Community Interest Company talked about personal data with relation to energy use and personal energy profiles and will explain why we need to revolutionize the ways we understand and manage our personal data [Slides].

Denise Recheis from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and Thomas Thurner from the Semantic Web Company looked at Linked Open Data and its applications in real world examples and give an overview of the clean energy portal and how they integrated the Linked Open Data principles in the project. They tried to get across the importance of readily available energy and emissions data on a regional and national levels [Slides].

Green Maps

For Green Map System, taking part in the Open Knowledge Festival was eagerly anticipated. Together with Helsinki Green Map, we provided sessions that highlighted both the locally relevant and globally linked aspects of our community-engaged sustainability mapping initiative.

As the founding director of the New York-based nonprofit that has worked with over 800 diverse project leaders in 65 countries, I found the OK Festival to be a powerful springboard as we consider the importance of maintaining trust, reliability and communication with the diverse municipalities, universities, nonprofits, enterprises, grassroots and youth groups who create Green Maps. Our process of going open made significant progress, and we’re now creating milestones to guide our trajectory. Watch our blog for news as we adopt increasingly open approaches to sharing knowledge, and let us know how you can help this effort.

Cindy Kohtala of Helsinki Green Map joined me in leading our sustainability stream sessions. On Tuesday, we focused on the evolution of the living lexicon of Green Map Icons (slides here). Used by all Green Mapmakers, these globally designed universal icons identify, promote and link thousands of natural, cultural, activism and green living resources on printed and interactive Green Maps. What new symbols are needed to highlight the fab labs, hacker spaces and co-ops show where open knowledge is taking root in communities? How do we select an open license that offers new capabilities yet prevents misuse by green-washers? How can our policies, tools and infrastructure make it easier for (often non-technical) Mapmaker communities around the world to operate according to their own unique preferences and conditions? We announced that soon, our social mapping platform will offer each Mapmaker the option to open their data to the public. The ensuing discussion was quite valuable (make open the default going forward, license choices, etc.) and it continued outdoors as we saw some of the nearby sites on the Helsinki Green Map (Video link).

Friday’s interoperability and inclusion session featured Philip Todres and Arne Purves from South Africa and Ciprian Samoila from Romania, who joined us via Skype. The Cape Town Green Map was initiated by the City to give community stakeholders a voice in the greening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Games. This ongoing project is also an instrumental part of the municipality’s successful bid for the crown of World Design Capital 2014. Arne and Philip detailed their approach and with an interactive Open Green Map and beautiful printed editions, this project successfully communicates good works and eco-assets to a local audience and at the same time, supports responsible tourism. It’s also inspired Green Mapmaking across South Africa (Video link).

Bucharest, Bacau, Cluj-Napoca and Bistrita Green Maps have been organized by Asociatia Harta Verde Romania. Its director, Ciprian described his involvement in ‘4BsHive’, a Grundtvig-funded transnational Green Map project between four river cities: Bristol (UK), Berlin (Germany), Budapest (Hungary) and Bistrita that resulted in knowledge exchange, a video and guide book. Ciprian has especially been involved with Green Map at the global level, including our transition to open. Green Map System’s first phase of interoperability will be in place this fall, and with it, new terms of service that address open licensing and support a wider diversity of partnerships and applications. These sessions along with the many insightful conversations that took place throughout the festival generated a fresh sense of how open can make significantly more of the good we have already created in support of sustainable, engaged community development.

Future, Openness and Sustainability

The session on Future, Openness and Sustainability explored the question of how openness as a value can be important for a sustainable future and how. The session was hosted by Jorge Zapico, a researcher on ICT and sustainability at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The format was a panel, where first five participants shared their perspective:

First Chris Adams, product manager at AMEE, spoke about the intersection between open source and sustainability, and recounted AMEE’s own experiences acting as a company built around using open source technology, and open data to help companies and governments understand their environmental impact and and why the hacker mindset was so relevant in bulding an open, sustainable future. He also announced the opening up of AMEE’s environmental datasets.

Hannes Ebner, a researcher at KTH in Stockholm, shared his experience on using open linked data for educational resources on organic agriculture in the Organic Edunet european project, and argued why open education is important for creating change and spreading and improving knowledge.

Jack Townsend, a web and sustainability researcher at the University of Southampton in the UK, talked about four primary ways in which open knowledge can help with creating a sustainable open society. Firstly, transparency to make actors accountable for their environmental impact. Secondly, better informing the citizens to whom institutions are accountable, building well-founding trust in relevant science and policies. Thirdly, to get more human value out of the global economy with less environmental input, through coordination, optimisation, and rethinking what we want out. And finally by innovating to find earth-friendly technology and to provide freedoms in a resource-constrained world.

James Smith of Cleanweb UK described how transparency and accountability in government and the scientific process could be enabled by Open Data, and would be essential for the public to support a large-scale transition to a sustainable society. It would also enable innovation and the discovery of new systems-level efficiencies.

The final discussion included the present public and discussed the synthesis of the different panelist. The main topic was on how the the hacker mindset was relevant in building an open, sustainable future. Two main points were discussed: first transparency, second creativity (Video link).

The Green Hackathon

The Green Hackathon at the OKFestival was a two days event part of a series of events organized around Europe. The concept at the OKFestival was to bring together developers, data experts and organizations to do hands-on work on existing projects and data and to have focus sessions discussing different projects and synergies between the participants. Some of the results and activities include:

Helsinki CO2 Visualization

A visualization of the CO2 emissions data for the city of Helsinki from Siemens and Aalto. It allows to change different variables to explore how different possible future scenarios:

Future weather and the World Bank Climate Change Portal

App uses World Bank data on current and projected weather to put climate change in a context: You choose the country you are interested in and the app tells you which country today has a climate comparable to the future climate of your country. Calculation is done by creating similarity indices using Euclidean distances for each country and picking out the best fit. You can choose between a conservative projection (optimistic) and a doomsday projection (pessimistic):

Tim Herzog from the World Bank Open Data team gave a tour of the World Bank Climate Change Portal. Whilst we can always use more and better data, the immediate challenge for climate is understanding and translating what we already have. Non-experts need tools to understand why climate change is important, and how it will impact them now and in the future. Experts need better analysis tools for making decisions and planning. To this end, the World Bank had the Apps for Climate competition, with Jack Townsend demoing one of the winners, Globe-Town. Tim discussed ideas for new visualisations including the the Future Weather app (above), and one to visualise different emissions reductions scenarios to reflect the great lack of progress since they were last were developed a decade or more ago.

Mashing up the Carbon Map with data from the International Land Coalition

The team of the International Land Coalition (ILC) demoed the Land Matrix Portal and invited a discussion about what could be done with the data. The ILC is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building. After a serendipitous conversation between ILC and Robin Houston of Carbonmap, he created a new visualisation using the same technology powering Carbonmap, to show these changes in land ownership over the last 10 years, on a global scale.

The map shows the effect of the land deals in the Land Matrix database. The “before” map simply shows the true land area of each country. The “after” map is an exaggerated rendition of the changes due to land deals, where a company based in one country buys a tract of land in another. For each land deal where the purchasing company is associated with a particular country, the size of the purchasing country is increased and the size of the country where the land was bought is reduced correspondingly. The true size of the affected land area is multiplied by 100 to make a visible difference on the map: see the Land Matrix map.

Energy Pulse and Big Oil Facts

Thomas Thurner and Denise Recheis presented two challenges relating to energy data: Energy Pulse and Big Oil Facts/Truth. Energy pulse focusses on varying production and consumption patterns of electricity around the globe, to visualise how they can be held in balance as demand increases and more time-varying supplies of renewable energy are introduced. Big Oil Facts is about visualising the subsidies given to fossil fuel production companies and how this underpins their profits – a reality often overlooked in criticisms of renewable energy subsidy.

Open Data for Measuring Social Progress

The session “Open Data for Measurement of Social Progress” brought a diverse range of panelists from academia, policy and the open data community together to discuss how open data and technology can help improve the measurement of social progress.

Guo Xu, PhD student at the London School of Economics, gave a brief introduction to the historical and existing efforts in measuring social progress. Defining progress, he argued, is power and the aim of the session is to explore how both definition and discourse can be “opened up” to the public [Slides].

Dr. Ulla Rosenstroem, Senior Specialist at the Prime Minister’s Office, presented the Findicator, a website aimed presenting Finnish statistical data in a more appealing way. In particular, she stressed the importance of indicators in summarizing and communicating socio-economic trends to policy makers and citizens alike [Slides].

Vincent Finat-Duclos, Statistical Editor at the OECD, introduced the OECD Better Life Index and showed how gamification and good visualization can help educate the broader public about the functioning and use of composite indices. Finally, he sketched the next steps of the Better Life Index: Improving robustness, extending the sample and improving the usability [Slides].

Dr. Robin Houston, Developer of Guardian’s Rio+20 Better or Worse app, showed how eliciting user’s rating on the current developmental progress can help generate useful data for statistical analysis: Among survey participants, women were on average more pessimistic than men, participants from Africa were the most optimistic and (taken with a grain of salt) iPad users were the most optimistic [Slides].

Dirk Heine, Member of the OKFN Economics Working Group, presented Yourtopia and Yourtopia Italy – two applications that allow users to define which dimensions matter most for development. Harnessing the feedback provided by the users, the app then calculates an “consensus” measure of social progress [Slides].

In overall, panelists agreed that there was a lack of high frequency indicators that span longer time horizons to allow a more nuanced analysis of trends. While diverse in backgrounds, the session illustrated how collaboration between policy, academia and the open data community may help generate innovative and exciting ideas (Video link).

Any comments for the whole team? Contact: sustainability [at]

Open Knowledge and Sustainability at OKFestival

- September 17, 2012 in Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Events, Open Economics

OKFestival The Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki this year will host between 18 and 21 September a topic stream on Open Knowledge and Sustainability, organised by the Centre for Sustainable Communications, the Greenhackathon, the Open Economics Working Group and Cleanweb London. James Cameron, founder and the non-executive Chairman of Climate Change Capital, will deliver the keynote presentation, speaking about “Open data systems: a collective response to a collective problem“. OKFestival

Open Knowledge and Energy Data

Tuesday – September 18, 11:30-13:00, Aalto PRO

A panel session to show examples of the value from opening data on a community level and the possibility to reduce energy consumption when sharing consumption levels with peers. As energy usage data is not open data, but personal data, we would need to revolutionise the ways we understand and manage personal data. Additionally, knowledge sharing and open data have crucial roles to play in increasing energy efficiency and developing cleaner energy sources. Information technology and the linking up of open datasets are therefore important tools in the low-carbon economy. SpeakersDenise Recheis, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), Karthikeya Acharya, Aalto University; Ken Dooley, Granlund consulting engineers, Helsinki; Thomas Thurner, Semantic Web Company (SWC), Open Knowledge Forum Austria (OKFO), Velichka Dimitrova, Open Knowledge Foundation, UK (moderator); William Heath,

Green Maps: Informing and Engaging Through Icons

Tuesday – September 18, 14:00-15:30, Aalto PRO

Helsinki Green Mapmakers and founder of Green Map System Wendy Brawer (US) welcome you to this session exploring iconography, mapping and community engagement. Around the world, hundreds of local Green Map projects are linked by an award-winning universal iconography that highlights sustainable living resources along with ecological, cultural and activism sites… In this presentation, we’ll show how this evolving iconography has been used to leverage participation in sustainable community development. We’ll involve you in the ongoing discussion regarding the newest icons to be added to the globally designed set. We’ll learn how to contribute to the Helsinki Green Map and share your perspectives on this remarkable city. And we’ll take a stroll round the Arabianranta area to experience first-hand the neighbourhood and its built and natural environment. Speakers: Cindy Kohtala – Helsinki Green Map; Wendy Brawer – Creator and Director of the Green Map System.

Future, Openness and Sustainability

Tuesday – September 18, 16:00-17:30, Aalto PRO 

Open knowledge can be used as a practical tool for moving towards sustainability. However, openness can also make an important contribution to sustainability from a philosophical and ethical perspective, a contribution not limited to digital resources. We will discuss ideas around what role open knowledge can play in a more sustainable future and why it is important to have openness as an ethical value for sustainability. In a series of short talks followed by a discussion, the speakers will consider the cleanweb, open seeds, open education resources, open source architecture and open economies. Speakers: Karthikeya Acharya – Aalto University, Finland, Chris Adams – AMEE, UK – @mrchrisadams, Hannes Ebner – KTH, Sweden – @electricbum, James Smith – Cleanweb, UK – @floppy, Jack Townsend – University of Southampton, UK – @JackTownsend_, Jorge Zapico – KTH, Sweden – @zapico

Open Data for Measuring Social Progress

Friday – September 21, 11:00-13:30, Hack Cinema

Is there more to progress than simply growing the economy? How can open knowledge help us to measure progress better? The measurement of social progress and human development has seen rapid advances fuelled by the growing availability of data and theoretical concepts that call for a wider definition of human development beyond conventional measures such as income or GDP. Academics and policymakers are relying increasingly on more sophisticated “composite indices” to compare the performance of cities, regions and countries. So far, however, the public has remained a passive “consumer” of such indices. This session explores how open data and collaborative approaches can help create new metrics, as well as improve existing metrics of well-being. Bringing together speakers from the cutting-edge of academia, policy and civil society, this session aims for a creative discussion about how technology and openness can help redefine the very concept of progress. SpeakersVincent Finat-Duclos – Statistical editor / OECD Better Life Index – @twitvfdDirk Heine – OKFN Open Economics / Core Team, Robin Houston – Developer of Guardian’s Rio+20 Better or Worse / – @robinhouston, Ulla Rosenström – Senior Adviser at the Finnish Prime Minister’s Office, Guo Xu – OKFN Open Economics / London School of Economics and Political Science – @misologie (moderator).

Green Maps for Socially-inclusive Open Knowledge

Friday – September 21, 14:00-15:30, Hack Cinema

This session continues the Green Map discussion that began on Tuesday, with international Green Mapmakers as special guests. With so much information at our fingertips, how can a mapping process engage a fresh way of thinking about and interacting with the environment? The Green Map movement has spread to 825 cities and towns in 65 countries, including Helsinki ( The next phase of development is happening now: interoperability is being added, opening the data and platform to new collaborations and innovations. Bring your hacker spirit and find out how the process of Green Mapmaking can help increase passion for a healthy environment and climate in your community now, and how, though interoperability, OGM’s data will become open standards-compliant, allowing its locally-sourced and pre-existing government and community map data to be shared, mixed, layered, repurposed and analyzed in new ways. Ciprian Samoila and Philip Todres, Green Mapmakers from Romania and Cape Town, will join the conversation too, and together, we can demonstrate how Green Maps turn local information into global interaction. Speakers: Wendy Brawer – Creator and Director of the Green Map System, Cindy Kohtala – Helsinki Green Map, Arne Purves – City of Cape Town, South Africa, Ciprian Samoila – Asociatia Harta Verde Romania, Philip Todres – A & C Maps cc, Cape Town Green Map.

Green Hackathon

Wednesdat-Thursday – September 19-20, 11:30-19:00, Hack Workshop 3

The Open Knowledge and Sustainability Stream also includes the Green Hackathon .

Welcome to two days of hacking for openness and sustainability at the OKFestival in Helsinki. This is an opportunity to meet great developers and sustainability experts and to help out our planet with some innovative coding.

This event is part of the Green Hackathon series of events taking place across Europe and it will comprise two days of working hands-on to improve and disseminate sustainability data. It will begin with a short presentation on Wednesday morning (Sept. 19) and end with a Show-and-Tell of the results (Sept. 20).

The focus will be on opening up and improving existing sustainability data and improving existing applications.    

This topic stream is the team effort of:

  • Velichka Dimitrova – Open Knowledge Foundation, UK – @vndimitrova (Coordinator)
  • Jorge Zapico – Researcher at Centre for Sustainable Communications, KTH. Sweden – @zapico
  • Hannes Ebner – Researcher at Media Technology and Interaction Design, KTH. Sweden – @electricbum
  • Dirk Heine – Open Economics Core Team, UK
  • Guo Xu, Open Economics Core Team, UK – @misologie
  • Jack Townsend – University of Southampton, UK – @JackTownsend_
  • James Smith – Cleanweb, UK – @floppy
  • Chris Adams – AMEE UK – @mrchrisadams

More information about the Open Knowledge and Sustainability Stream:

More information about the Green Hackathon: and

Contact us: sustainability [at]

Ignite Cleanweb

- September 11, 2012 in Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Events

Ignite Cleanweb

Ignite Event in London

This Thursday in London, Cleanweb UK invites you to their first Ignite evening, hosted by Forward Technology. Come along and see a great lineup of lightning talks, all about what’s happening with sustainability and the web in the UK.

From clean clouds, to home energy, to climate visualisation, there will plenty to learn, and plenty of other attendees to get to know. It’ll be an evening to remember, so make sure you’re there! Sign up on the Cleanweb UK website.

Confirmed lighting talks:

* Loco2 vs The European Rail Booking Monster, Jon Leighton, Loco2
* Love Thy Neighbour. Rent Their Car, Tom Wright, Whipcar
* Solar Panels Cross The Chasm, Jason Neylon, uSwitch
* Weaponising Environmentalism, Chris Adams, AMEE
* Energy Saving Behaviour – The Motivation Challenge, Paul Tanner, Virtual Technologies
* Good Food, For Everyone, Forever. Easy, Right?, Ed Dowding, Sustaination
* The Open Energy Monitor Project, Glyn Hudson & Tristan Lea, OpenEnergyMonitor
* The Carbon Map, Robin Houston, Carbon Map
* Putting the Local in Global Warming with Open Data, Jack Townsend, Globe Town
* Cleanweb in the UK, James Smith, Cleanweb UK

and more…

Cleanweb community

Cleanweb Community London

There is a movement growing. Bit by bit, developers are using the power of the web to make our world more sustainable. Whether by improving the way we travel, the way we eat, or the way we use energy, the web is making a difference. The Cleanweb movement is building a global conversation, with local chapters running hackdays and meetups to get people together.

Here in the UK, we’ve been doing this longer than anyone else. Cleanweb-style projects were emerging in 2007, with 2008’s geeKyoto conference bringing together a lot of early efforts.

It’s only really appropriate then that we have the most active Cleanweb community in the world, in the form of Cleanweb London. With over 150 members, it’s a great base, on which we’re building a wider Cleanweb UK movement. We’ve run a hackday, have regular meetups, and are building towards our first Ignite Cleanweb evening.

This is an expanding community, made of many different projects and groups, and one that has a chance to do some real good. If you’d like to be part of it, or if you already are but didn’t know it, come along to a meetup and get involved!

Cleanweb MeetUp

OKFestival Green Hackathon

- September 10, 2012 in Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Hackathon, Open Economics

Green Hackathon

  • When: 19th-20th of September
  • Where: Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Hämeentie 135 C Helsinki (Hack workshop 3)

Welcome to two days of hacking for openness and sustainability at the OKFestival in Helsinki. This is an opportunity to meet great developers and sustainability experts and to help out our planet with some innovative coding.

This event is part of the Green Hackathon series of events taking place across Europe and it will comprise two days of working hands-on to improve and disseminate sustainability data. It will begin with a short presentation on Wednesday morning (Sept. 19) and end with a Show-and-Tell of the results (Sept. 20).

The focus will be on opening up and improving existing sustainability data and improving existing applications. The following challenges will be featured in the programme (time slots during Wednesday and Thursday will be confirmed in case you would like to drop by for their hacking session):

  • “Land Matrix” by Neil Sorensen, International Land Coalition
  • “Energy Pulse” by Thomas Thurner, Semantic Web Company / Open Knowledge Forum Austria (OKFO)
  • “Big Oil Facts/Truth” by Denise Recheis, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP)
  • “A Github for Environmental Data” by Chris Adams, AMEE UK
  • “Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Study – Helsinki” by Markku Suvanto, Siemens Finland
  • “tbc” Ed Borden, Cosm/LogMeIn

Many different contributions are welcome, including coders, designers, data specialists, economists or sustainability thinkers. The participation format is flexible, you can stay for the whole two days or drop in and out helping out some existing team. Participation is free and a OKFestival ticket is not required. Come along and help us with the challenge of opening up sustainability knowledge and making it more accessible!

How do I participate?

Participation is free and an OKFestival ticket is not required.

This event is part of the Open Knowledge and Sustainability Stream.

To register your interest for participating:

If you would like to participate, but are not attending the OKFestival, please e-mail us at sustainability [at]

More information about the event at:

This blog post is also published here.

OKFN Energy Lab: Call for Partners

- July 25, 2012 in Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Events, Hackathon

This blog post is also featured here.

OKF Energy Lab

OKFN Labs is launching Labs Sprints, a new initiative to create data-driven applications around a specific topic within a very short timeframe – a single week. As we start this, we’re looking for partners to help us frame the questions that our apps will aim to explore. To create such high-impact apps which can serve policy-making, our team needs a partner from the topic area who understands the background and the issue in question and can help us guide in the creations of a meaningful product.

Energy Data is theme for the first OKF Lab, taking place in Berlin 1-8 October, 2012, and bringing together a small team of coders, designers, data wranglers, technologists and policy experts. The theme is structured broadly to incorporate a wide range of sub-topics e.g. renewable energy resources and energy efficiency, fossil fuels and traditional energy structures, electricity demand and supply, government spending around energy policies as well as emissions from energy use in transport, industry, etc.

Open energy data is increasingly recognised by governments as “a powerful input to innovation” that can empower citizens, create jobs, encourage entrepreneurship and foster societal transformations. Access to energy data is also a citizen’s right: publicly-owned machine readable energy information and data should be made available and accessible to all sectors of society.

Creative energy data apps could assist users in forecasting future consumption based on previous usage data, mapping daily electricity consumption peaks and lows, providing web-based tools for emissions data-collection, comparing the efficiency and cost of alternative energy investments or presenting data in an easy-to-understand, interactive and engaging way.


Organisations that are working in this area are invited to partner with OKFN Labs on presenting a challenge for our team. The partners are expected to provide some support in the process of framing the Energy Lab and present an input in the form of a presentation about current research, policy and technological gaps.

Please contact us with a short e-mail, outlining the challenge in answering the following questions.

* What is the problem you would like to solve?
* Which are the groups and relevant audiences?
* What kind of data would you like to use?

Contact e-mail: sprints [at]

Globe Town: Open data for sustainability website wins global award

- July 17, 2012 in Announcements, Environment, Energy and Sustainability

A new website that opens up the complex world of climate change and how it relates to the individual has won a major global award for our team from the UK. was placed third in the first international ‘Apps for Climate’ competition (#Apps4Climate) held by the World Bank presented at a ceremony in Washington DC. Competition judges included Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President of Sustainable Development.  The overall winner was Ecofacts from Argentina, and second place went to Norway’s My Climate Plan.  In the last such competition from the World Bank – Apps for Development – a team from the OKFN also won third place with Yourtopia.

Globe Town image 1Globe-Town builds heavily on the increasing amount of freely available open data online, with much of it originating from the World Bank’s open data portal which provides a rich variety of well-organized information around all aspects of sustainable development. By opening up the facts of climate change in different countries, Globe-Town shows how no one is isolated from the consequences in an interdependent world. The site also reveals how responding to climate change presents a world of opportunities to inspire individuals and entrepreneurs.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that climate change is killing 150,000 people a year. In order to tackle this challenge, we all need to know how it affects us personally and what we can do about it. Globe-Town does this by connecting the global with the local, so we can explore the risks, responsibilities and opportunities of climate change in an increasingly interconnected world.

The aim of Globe-Town is to open up our world of connections to exploration, whilst bringing home what the things we discover might mean to us personally. We hope to bring more transparency to the rich network of our connections, or, perhaps introduce people to their far-away next-door neighbours.  Globe-Town originated with my research into the web and climate change.  I’m fascinated by the potential of web technologies and openness to tackle global challenges and advance sustainable development for all;  Globe-Town is just one example of how they can contribute.  I’m really looking forward to exploring this new area at the  Sustainability Stream of the Open Knowledge Festival in Finland this September, where I’m a program planner.  The site was developed from my original concept with a team of four PhD students from the University’s Web Science Doctoral Training Centre: architect Richard Gomer, Huw Fryer, Will Fyson, Dominic Hobson & myself.  The fancy graphics were designed by Andrea Prieto.

Globe-Town is an user friendly web app where people can learn about each country’s environment, society and economy, so they can understand the challenges and opportunities that it faces in a changing world. Moreover, they can explore the connections between countries through relationships such as trade, migration or air travel. Stories can then emerge of how climate risks can be transmitted between distant countries, for instance the impact of the 2011 Thai floods on the Japanese economy. Similarly, the user can learn about shared responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions through the things we import, or opportunities to act to mitigate and to adapt, such as investing in renewable energy projects abroad. This is the first version of the app, and the team are very keen to receive feedback and ideas for version two.

We’re exploring a wide range of possibilities for the future of Globe-Town, such as enabling people to crowd-fund projects, participate in e-activism, or to contribute content so they can take action about what they discover. With ideas like these – along with the existing discussion feature – Globe-Town can go beyond exploring our existing links to forging new ones around the world. After all, we all live in the same Globe-Town.