A couple of months ago, OpenCorporates published our report on access to company data in Open Government Partnership countries, which was pretty dire, with the countries scoring an average of just 21 out of 100 points.
Well, today, Norway has boosted that average a bit, by becoming the first Open Government Partnership country to publish its company register as data, and so instantly went from 8th to 1st place on our Access to Company Data scoreboard (the UK has committed to publishing its register as open data in July, but has not yet done so. Update: it has now done so too).
We’ve been talking with the Norwegian open data people for quite a while now, and it’s great to see that with their new launch of their open data api, they’ve added the basic company data to it (an API enables two different computers to talk to each other, compared with a scraper, which looks at a web page designed for humans and tries to extract data from it).
That means we can retire the OpenCorporates scraper for Norway (which is good, as scrapers are an intensive and inefficient way of getting the data), and use the API to ensure we’re bang up to date, like the UK and New Zealand, where we also have API access. At the moment, the information returned by the API is pretty basic, with none of the detail that you need to get a full picture of the company (e.g. directors, filings, shareholders), but hopefully this will eventually be made available, putting Norway further in the lead.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Ministry of Finance has announced (English summary) that it is also going to open up its company register as open data too. In the Belgian case, this actually requires a change in the law. More details are expected in the next few weeks.
In both cases this shows not just a commitment by Norway and Belgium to open data, but an understanding that the company registers are critical public registers, essential to the understanding and supervision of companies, which after all are artificial entities given legal personality by the state separate from the owners and managers for the good of society. Let’s hope that some of the bigger European countries follow Norway and Belgium’s important first step in this area.