Rufus Pollock

Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom,
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Rufus Pollock was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
In this information age technology makes it possible—in theory—for everyone to have access to the essential information they need. Data on any number of topics--from government spending to cultural heritage to the results of scientific research—exists but is often held in silos with free and open access prevented by accident or design.

Rufus is working to change this. Open Data, which Rufus helped to define for the first time in a now globally-recognized idea and standard, embodies the idea of free and open sharing of information. It’s more than simply “public” information—its data that is 100 percent free to access and build on. Rufus has pioneered the ideas, policies and technology around open data and helped drive mass-adoption of open data by institutions around the world including many governments.

Through the Open Knowledge Foundation, created in 2004, Rufus is systematically removing the legal, technical, and social barriers to the provision and use of essential information. This is about more than just access to data—it means creating the tools, skills and communities that will truly enable people to answer the questions that matter. Selectively working where there are key gaps, Rufus and his colleagues have now produced several important tools such as CKAN and OpenSpending and have been actively working around the world to create data skills especially among citizen organizations (COs). Most significantly they have also been spearheading the development of a global “open” community with the Foundation itself having groups in more than 30 countries.

By democratizing access to data, the Open Knowledge Foundation is creating a global change in transparency, citizen empowerment and social justice, changing the way policymakers, companies, and those in positions of power can be held to account. Since founding, hundreds of institutions and 80 governments have put Open Data policies in place, voluntarily releasing a tidal wave of open data on everything from public spending to crime and health. As the Open movement grows, data is being transformed into a valuable new resource for society as a whole and Rufus’s work is enabling a burst of economic and creative productivity, similar to how the Internet paved the way for the digital economy.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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