Previewing OKCon in Geneva, 16-19 September

OKConNext week, the Open Knowledge Foundation and Switzerland’s will kick off the annual OKCon in Geneva. Practitioners, researchers and policy experts will gather starting Monday to compare notes and “coordinate and strengthen public policy around the world to support a truly global and interconnected ecosystem of open data.”

TABridge will be presenting lessons from our 2013 mentorship activities, focusing on how transparency NGOs can effectively adopt technology tools. The 18 September panel will feature mentors Sarah Schacht, Gabriela Rodriguez and Lucy Chambers, as well as T/AI director Vanessa Herringshaw.

The OKCon hosts have neatly organized the 2013 event into handful of intuitive topics, including, Open Data, Government and Governance;  Open Development and Sustainability; and Evidence and Stories, among others. To foster collaboration with more tangible results, many session hosts are using a workshop format, encouraging attendees with policy or practice backgrounds to sign up and learn together.

Several key themes of our TABridge activities and mentorships run through next week’s conference. Here are some highlights and recommended conversations to watch for and join:

The Open Government Partnership strives to be a fulcrum for greater access to government data and stronger collaboration between leaders and citizen groups for government accountability. On Tuesday, 17 September, Paul Maassen of OGP will convene a workshop about the creation of “a simple, reliable and transparent review methodology” that civil society groups in OGP countries can use to assess “both the quality and the ambition” of the local OGP effort.

T/AI was instrumental in the inception and launch of the OGP and director Vanessa Herringshaw is a lead contributor to this workshop.

Raising the bar for ambition and quality in OGP

Too many declarations about open data and “ICT4D” rely on hypotheticals. As part of OKCon’s international development theme, Duncan Edwards of the Institute of Development Studies will moderate presentations on the practical sides of open data and sustainability. Topics in the 17 September discussion will include disaster risk reduction, humanitarian emergencies and “human-readable data flows to improve urban life.” TABridge ally Fabrizio Scrollini of Latin America’s DATA project will also present on fostering open data for development:

Open Data: a driver for development and sustainability

On Wednesday, 18 September, a plenary talk among leaders with high level government experience offers a “big picture” view on open data and development. Andrew Stott, former transparency director for the British government, will moderate the talk with Jay Naidoo, former South African minister and now leader of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Chris Vein, ICT innovation officer at the World Bank and former White House CTO.

Open Development – Panel

Long a leader in data-driven policy advocacy and pioneering transparency experiments in the U.S., the Sunlight Foundation is now helping to build an international community of techies and NGOs pushing for transparency. Sunlight’s international coordinator Júlia Keserű will co-chair an 18 September panel on data-driven campaigning, with experts from Slovakia, Brazil, Croatia and the U.S.

“Campaigning” is a wide-ranging term and these practitioners are sure to have examples that make the challenges and solutions more concrete. It’s also notable that this session falls within OKCon’s “Evidence and Stories” topic—data without a structure or story is not enough to fuel a real campaign.

Data-driven campaigning  –  Cross-disciplinary panel

Naturally, a large contingent of OKCon participants are first and foremost technologists, and sessions throughout the week feature demonstrations and hands-on working sessions for people at every level of tech expertise. Those interested in diving a little deeper into workings of open data tools should consider investing time in some of the longer sessions to be held on Monday, 16 September, such as the introduction to CKAN, the widely-adopted platform for open sets; a discussion and hacking session on the challenges of creating standards for open data interoperability, led by The Engine Room and information innovation lab; and a highly participatory discussion on what it will take to link the various data sets available on “open resource flows,” which can include everything from natural resource revenue data to reports that track international aid and budget spending.

These are just a selected few of the dozens of sessions during the week of OKCon events. You can browse the full schedule at, or scan it by topic using the “Topics” link at

Like each OKCon, the multi-day event is a chance to meet people and build community. We hope to see you there, at our TABridge session and throughout the week!

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