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The world’s first open data festival can inspire business

This September, Helsinki hosts the world's first open knowledge festival, bringing leading experts together to focus on new business opportunities, the benefits of making information freely available and the effects of a new type of transparency on society.


Sitra will contribute to Helsinki’s ground-breaking open knowledge conference.

The OKFestival will bring leading open data experts to Helsinki for a week in September. The world’s first open knowledge festival will focus on new business opportunities, the benefits of making information freely available and the effects of a new type of transparency on society. More than 400 people from companies, organisations and public sector institutions from all over the world have already registered for the event. The main organisers of the OKFestival are the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Finnish Institute in London and the Aalto Media Factory. Sitra provided EUR 25,000 towards funding the event. Other sponsors include the Ministry of Justice, Aalto University, Helsingin Sanomat and IBM.

“We believe that open data is a major business opportunity for Finland. Open knowledge makes innovation more democratic, as it enables low-cost commercial inventions to become successful. Open data means new growth opportunities particularly for small and medium-sized companies,” says Ossi Kuittinen, Leading Specialist at Sitra, who will discuss Finnish open data business applications at the event.

According to Kuittinen, funding a major open data conference and participating in the event are efforts well suited to Sitra. New global networks are created even at the preparation stage, allowing Finns to establish contacts with world-class operators.

“In Finland, the focus has been too much on committees and reports. We need more practical collaboration in a positive and supportive spirit,” says Kuittinen. “Open data is related to Sitra’s role as a pioneer. Our complex and discontinuous world requires rapid and decentralised decision-making and participation. Open data is a means to solve systemic problems. It increases transparency as well as participation among citizens, two issues that are important for Sitra.”

The festival programme includes workshops, lectures, hackathon events and online broadcasts, with topics spanning administrative transparency, open equipment and new business concepts based on open data.

“I believe that a great deal will happen in the field of geodata, for example. The event will also focus on the issues of equality and participation among women, which is interesting, because programming events have traditionally been strongly related to young men,” says Ossi Kuittinen.

In practice, open data means that the National Land Survey of Finland makes its maps and aerial images freely available to citizens and companies or that the City of Helsinki publishes its public transport timetable information for developers to create applications for everyday use, to name just two examples. According to the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, companies have grown on average 14-15 percent more in countries where publicly produced geographical and other information has been made freely available, compared to firms in countries where such information is only made available for a fee.

Open Knowledge Festival will take place in Helsinki from 17 to 22 September 2012. Tickets are available for purchase until 16 September.