Tech giants' wealth and power threatens our economy and society

March 17, 2019




The concentration of wealth and power in the digital age is ‘unsustainable’ and threatens our economy and society, a major conference will hear today. World-renowned speakers will call for a ‘digital economy for the many’, to ensure that everyone has a stake in our digital future. The ‘Blind Spots’ conference in London will examine the future of the UK and the technological world with President Barack Obama’s former professor and adviser, Professor Roberto Unger, who has been a leading global figure in progressive thought and politics for over three decades. The event has been organised by Dr Rufus Pollock, a researcher, technologist and entrepreneur who pioneered the global open data movement.

In the last few years the optimism surrounding the digital revolution has given way to a backlash, and the conference will hear concerns about monopoly and manipulation, and argue that digital advances should be a force for economic and social democracy. Professor Unger will address collective ‘blind-spots’: the issues hidden from our view which are holding us back in areas ranging from the digital economy, to climate change to the rise of populism. Dr Pollock will promote a world where all digital information is open, free for everyone to use, build on and share; and where innovators and creators are recognised and rewarded.

Dr Rufus Pollock, co-founder of the Art / Earth / Tech institute and founder of Open Knowledge International, said: “Running the information economy by the old rules has led to spiralling inequality. In 2016, the eight richest people in the world had as much money as the bottom 50 per cent of humanity. This is a political timebomb. “This unsustainable concentration of wealth and power has led to stunted growth and lost opportunities. As a result, it is the consumer, future innovators and society that lose out. “We need new rules for this new digital world to combat the rise of unjustified and unjust monopolies, which are dangerous both to our economies and our societies. “We must reward innovators and creators whilst preserving fairness and freedom, giving everyone a stake in our digital future and building a digital economy for the many.”

Professor Roberto Unger said: “It is not good enough to humanise a world that we fail to reimagine and remake. An indispensable element in the project of the progressives today must be the deepening and dissemination of the most advanced practice of production - the knowledge economy. The consequences of its present insularity are stagnation, inequality, and belittlement.”

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of Open Knowledge International, said: “There have been many digital gains in recent years, but openness is now under threat. “Political earthquakes around the world and the rise of populism have led to a more authoritarian approach that could return us to a closed society. “The way forward is to resuscitate the three foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas, to prevent the drift to the extremes. “We must work to build a fair, free and open digital world, which offers both the freedom of enterprise and the opportunity of empowerment.”



Conference details: Blind Spots #1: The Knowledge Economy, the Progressive Project and the Future of Britain - a Conversation with Professor Roberto Unger. This event is being organized by Art / Earth / Tech in collaboration with the Institute for Public Policy Research and Open Knowledge International. When: Sunday, 17th of March, 4-6pm Where: Newspeak House, 133 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 7DG Event link:

About Professor Roberto Unger Professor Unger was one of the youngest professors in Harvard Law’s history, helped bring democracy back to Brazil, served in Lula’s government as a minister, and was a key influence – and critic – of President Barack Obama. For over three decades he has been a leading figure in progressive thought and politics. Now, in his latest book he has turned his attention to the knowledge economy and its implication for politics and society in the 21st century.

About Dr Rufus Pollock Dr Pollock is a researcher, technologist and entrepreneur. He has been a pioneer in the global Open Data movement, advising national governments, international organisations and industry on how to succeed in the digital world. He is the founder of Open Knowledge, a leading NGO which is present in over 35 countries, empowering people and organisations with access to information so they can create insight and drive change. Formerly, he was the Mead Fellow in Economics at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. He has been the recipient of a $1m Shuttleworth Fellowship and is currently an Ashoka Fellow and Fellow of the RSA. He holds a PhD in Economics and a double first in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge.

Contact: Alan Roden at or +44 07753 904 531


The Open Knowledge Foundation helps governments, universities, and civil society organisations reach their full potential by providing them with skills and tools to publish, use, and understand data. We are the experts in opening up knowledge: we created the Open Definition in 2005, the gold standard for open data, and have over ten years of experience in addressing technological, legal and social challenges around open data. We believe in a world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few.

We deliver technology solutions, enhance data literacy, provide cutting-edge research and mobilise communities to provide value for a wide range of international clients. Our track record includes the development of pioneering databases for fiscal and medical transparency, world leading open data benchmarks such as the Global Open Data Index, and data training programs with key non-profit organisations such as Global Witness. We work with a range of international NGOs, such as Transparency International, as well as governments around the world, including the United Kingdom, United States, Panama, and Sweden.

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The Open Knowledge Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation. It is incorporated in England & Wales as a company limited by guarantee, with company number 05133759. Registered office address: 86 - 90 Paul Street, London EC2A 4NE, UK.

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