Heather Ford

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Heather Ford
Wikimania sessions 2014 21.JPG
Ford at Wikimania 2014
Born (1978-01-06) 6 January 1978 (age 39)
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Occupation researcher, blogger, journalist, entrepreneur, and activist

Heather Ford (born 6 January 1978) is a South African researcher, blogger, journalist, social entrepreneur and open source activist[1] who has worked in the field of Internet policy, law and management in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. She is the founder of Creative Commons South Africa.[2] She worked as a digital ethnographer at Ushahidi[3] until October 2012 when she began studying for her DPhil at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.[4]


Ford was born in Pietermaritzburg in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa[2] on 6 January 1978.[citation needed] She was Head Girl at Carter High School in Pietermaritzburg and won awards for debating, drama, music and academics.

In 1996, she went to Rhodes University to study a four-year Bachelor of Journalism degree majoring in communication design.[5] During her time at Rhodes, Ford was Arts and Culture Editor for the Rhodes student newspaper, Activate,[6] and performed in numerous plays and dance dramas. She co-wrote and starred in the National Arts Festival Fringe Festival play: ‘Sincerely, Colour’ in 1997[citation needed] and was considering a career as a dance choreographer before she decided to find work in the media sector.

After working as Digital Information Manager for Johannesburg-based non-profit, the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa from 2000 to 2002, she went to the United Kingdom to work with the Association for Progressive Communications,[5] GreenNet[5] and Privacy International on Internet rights advocacy in Europe.

In 2003, she received a scholarship from Benetech to attend Stanford University as a fellow in the Reuters Digital Vision Program.[1] Volunteering for Creative Commons while she was at Stanford, she decided to go back to South Africa at the end of her studies to start Creative Commons South Africa[1] and a program entitled "Commons-sense: Towards an African Digital Information Commons" at the Wits University Link Centre. She has a postgraduate certificate in telecomms policy from the University of the Witwatersrand.[5] During 2006 Heather co-founded The African Commons Project, a South African non-profit organisation working on the commons in Africa.[1]

Ford at the iCommons meeting in Dubrovnik 2007

In 2006, Ford was appointed Executive Director of iCommons, a UK private charitable corporation. Working with Creative Commons, iCommons collaborates with communities interested in open education, access to knowledge, free software, open access publishing and free culture. After iCommons, in 2009 Ford founded the GeekRetreat, an event aiming to bring together technologists from around South Africa to discuss improving the local Internet.[7] She said in 2010 that Creative Commons and Wikipedia are not inclusive enough for the developing world.[2]

Ford was previously a member of the Advisory Board of the Wikimedia Foundation[8] and earned a master's degree at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information.[3][5] She has blogged at Thoughtleader[9] and Global Voices,[10] and has been a guest on Reuben Goldberg's 'The Internet Economy'.[11] In 2011, IT News Africa named Ford one of Africa's 10 most influential women in science and tech.[12]

  • The African Commons Project Board: 2006-current
  • The Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board: 2007-2009
  • iCommons Board: 2005-2006
Honors and awards
  • 2009 UC Berkeley School of Information Fellowship
  • 2009 Book of South African Women - An annual register of South Africa’s top women in business, technology
  • 2004 Stanford BASES social entrepreneurship award for Bookbox, a web-based jukebox of digital books in languages from around the world
  • 2003 Reuters Digital Vision Program Scholarship awarded by Benetech
  • 2003 British Chevening Scholarship awarded by the British government
  • 2000 Rhodes University Academic Colours and Distinction
  • 2009 ‘Open Culture’ in Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) 2009


  1. ^ a b c d "300 Young South Africans: Civil Society (Part 2)". Mail and Guardian. 12 June 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "200 Young South Africans: Technology". Mail and Guardian. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Q & A with Heather Ford: Makmende, Web Ethnography and Ostrich". 29 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  4. ^ "Heather Ford: DPhil Student". Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Book of South African Women: Technology". Mail and Guardian. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Heather Ford". LinkedIn. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Shapshak, Toby (11 October 2009). "It's not all Geek any more". Times Live. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Advisory Board - Former members". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  9. ^ "Thoughtleader". Thoughtleaders. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  10. ^ "Global Voices". Global Voices author. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  11. ^ "InternetEconomy". Internet Economy podcasts. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  12. ^ "Africa’s most influential women in Science and Tech". 14 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 

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