Access to company data in OGP countries: some progress but still very poor

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Today, just before the annual meeting of the Open Government Partnership in London, we’ve updated the Open Company Index – OpenCorporates‘ review of access to company data in OGP countries, in partnership with the World Bank Institute – and, frankly, to say that the results were mixed would be understating the situation.

For a group of countries that have signed up to the OGP’s grand goals, one of which is ‘Increasing Corporate Acountability’, the fact that there are a significant number of countries scoring 0/100 (meaning the company register can’t even be searched freely and without registration) is pretty scandalous.

Nor is this limited to developing countries where there is no online register – although a virtually zero-cost way of making this information available for countries such as Kenya that do have an electronic register but no website would be to do a regular CSV export from their systems and publish as open data.

In fact some countries have chosen to restrict access to the register only to those who pay (in the case of Spain) or to those who give them their social security number (in the case of Brazil) – not something any investigative journalist or civil society would be comfortable with if they were investigating corruption. These laggards, together with the low scores of the new OGP members, mean that the overall score for OGP members remains at 21/100 (the Index also includes all EU countries)

However, there is good news. The scores for the countries that were measured last April has risen to 25/100, thanks in large part to significant moves to opening company register data by the UK, Norway and Denmark, and both the UK and Norway have continued to increase the amount of data that has been released over the past 12 months. There have even been positive moves in the US, with New York State publishing its register of active companies as open data. And we been having extremely constructive discussions with a number of other registers around the world.

Such moves show that there is a better way – one that encourages not just corporate transparency, helps tackle corruption and fraud, and also fosters a better business environment, as our post on the Open Government Partnership blog earlier this week shows.