Heather Ford

Open Source activist

Heather Ford is seen as something of an Open Source guru in South African technology circles. But understated in her jeans and T-shirt, blonde hair brushed back off her face, it's easy to forget that this is a woman who counts Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia among her high-tech friends. A few years ago, Ford was awarded the Benetech scholarship to work as a fellow in the Reuters Digital Vision Fellowship Programme at Stanford University. It was there, in California, that she started volunteering for Creative Commons, which she describes as a "non-profit organisation devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.� In 2004, Ford returned to South Africa to start Creative Commons South Africa and has worked in areas of internet policy, law and management. She also co-founded the African Commons Project and serves on the advisory board of the Wikipedia foundation. Ford has the qualities of a good teacher too, expressing herself simply without being patronising or offhand when she explains the ins and outs of her work. She has delivered seminars on blogging for iCommons and on issues related to heritage through iHeritage. Technology and development, she says, are the focus of her work. "The beauty of the internet is seeing development projects. There is an opportunity to lower the barriers without needing a lot of funding.� Ford plans to begin a master's in information science systems at the University of California, Berkley in August. But before she does that she�s hosting a meeting of the 50 top internet entrepeneurs right here in South Africa. � Eamon Allan

Lunch spot: Assagi, Illovo, Rosebank, Johannesburg