Today, the International Open Data Conference will be going to Madrid, in Spain.
Which is an odd choice for an open data event, given that the Spanish government has not been exactly a world (or even European) leader in open data. In fact, if you listen to Spanish transparency NGOs, there are even deeper problems. Until recently there wasn’t even an access to information law, and the one they have now is at best highly problematic.
But of course it’s company data that we at OpenCorporates are particularly concerned with, and here they perform particularly badly, scoring 0 out of 100 on the Open Company Data Index. Not only can you not freely access the Spanish company register without registration (the minimum for scoring points on the index), you can’t even search for a company without submitting a credit card.
This is not just bad for transparency, it’s also bad for business, undermining trust in Spanish companies, and adding barriers to doing business with them.
It’s also highly problematic in the fight against corruption, as this report from Transparency International makes clear. Interestingly Spain also scores badly on open data on government spending, and for that matter land ownership, legislation, elections, trade, etc (scoring 4/14 on the Open Data Barometer) and doesn’t do too great on Transparency International’s corruption indices (http://www.transparency.org/country#ESP_PublicOpinion) either.
Will we see a change in the near future with its attitude to the company register? We think the arguments for doing so are very powerful, and increasingly Spain is becoming isolated in its stance. At the annual gathering of European company registers I attended a couple of years ago, it was heartening for so many company registers to be talking about how they planned to open up their registers, and we’ve definitely seen progress in the past couple of years. The main dissenting voice however, was Spain, as the head of the company register said words to the effect that it would be opened up over his dead body.
Nor does the general open data situation in Spain appear to offer too much hope; and seems particularly at odds with the theme of this years International Open Data Conference: “Global goals, local impact”.
I went to the Spanish open data site and one of the highlighted datasets was Map of bird watching in Valencia 1: 300,000. Now I’m a firm believer in the principle that all government data should be available as open data by default, but even OpenCorporates’ own concerns aside, it seems incontestable that making company register information available as open data would have more impact than this ‘dataset’. Worse still, the Map of Birdwatching wasn’t in fact a machine-readable dataset, but a link to a website, and even then wasn’t under an open data licence. Further investigations of many of the datasets listed on the portal yielded similar results.
Hopefully, the event in Madrid will be an opportunity for the Spanish government to reset its attitude to open data and transparency. Starting with the company register.
Picture by Rodrigo Paredes (CC BY 2.0).