Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to Combat Corruption

This practical resource identifies priority datasets, open standards and open data use-cases that governments, civil society and other stakeholders can focus on to tackle corruption at all levels and to respond to increasingly complex corruption networks.

Corruption has a devastating impact on the lives of people around the world. When money that should be spent on schools, hospitals and other government services ends up in the hands of dishonest officials, everyone suffers.

A broad understanding of corruption recognises that it is not just about isolated acts between two different agents: the one who offers a bribe, and the one who receives it. Instead, corruption is a complex crime. It is driven by networks of officials, professional intermediaries and companies. So in order to tackle corruption effectively, you need to understand and dismantle these networks. This requires information and the ability to spot patterns.

Many of the activities of a corruption network, and many of the individuals and organisations involved leave their mark on government held datasets. Paradoxically, corruption schemes frequently rely upon the law to secure ownership of companies, land and assets used to launder their proceeds. Public contracts, spending and other transactions are all recorded in government ledgers. And existing policies may call for asset disclosures and interest registers to be maintained. If all this information remains in silos, identifying, tracking and confronting corruption networks remains a laborious task.

That’s where open data can step in. Open data is information anyone can access, use and share. It should be made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Publishing government information in this way has the potential to allow government officials, journalists and citizens to follow financial flows, understand who’s providing government services and to spot suspect behaviour.

Open Up Guide: Testing how to use open data to combat corruption in Mexico

In late 2017, México decided to become the first country in the world to implement the Guide and test its assumptions. It also became the first country to embed the Guide as an official standard in its Open Data Policy and to actively use it as part of its national anti-corruption efforts.

The teams of the Open Data Charter, Transparencia MexicanaCívica Digital and the Government Open Data team, with the financial help of the Inter American Development Bank, worked together for 6 months. Together we identified, released, analyzed, increased the quality, and promoted the use of Anticorruption related open data at the Executive branch in the country.

The result was the identification of 72 specific data resources that match the recommendations of the Guide. 47 of these datasets — which contain more than 12 million registries and 350 million data points — have already been released in the Mexican Open Data Platform datos.gob.mx.

Furthermore, and maybe most importantly for the future of the Open up Guides, the datasets are already being used in various projects to generate impact, for example:

  • Open Contracting data was used by IMCO and OPI Analytics to generate a Corruption Contracting Index.
  • Fiscal declaration open data was used by the civil society organization Data Cívica to generate new open datasets that would have cost the government more than a million pesos to generate.
  • Open Fiscal data was used in a hackathon during Open Data Day 2018 to generate visualizations around federal spending.
  • Open Contracting data is being used by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Administration in the National Open Contracting Platform gob.mx/contratacionesabiertas.

For Mexico, this implementation is only the first step towards combating corruption with a data-driven approach. In the coming weeks, the Executive Secretariat of the National Anticorruption System will officially adopt the Guide and its results to serve as their steward, but also to use this data to generate intelligence to fight corruption in the country.

Open Up Field Guides: Methodology

There is a growing recognition among the open data community that our efforts should be focused on delivering real-world impact from efforts to publish and enable use of data. To support a move in this direction, the Open Data Charter started developing a series of “Open Up Guides” providing a step-by-step outline of how to share data with the aim of solving specific policy problems.

After successfully implementing the first of the Guides: ‘the Anticorruption Open Up Guide’ in México, we are excited to share with the open data community a methodology for anyone wishing to develop an Open Up Guide for their field. The methodology is informed by our work with real-life cases and builds on our understanding that good quality production and management of data is a prerequisite for data sharing. As stewards of the Charter, we are focused on encouraging organisations and governments of all levels to adopt a ‘publish with purpose’ approach to opening up datasets.

The approach outlined in the methodology ensures that the Guides are grounded in practical evidence while gathering learnings to make sure global norms are applicable locally. We are keen to collaborate as much possible with government officials, experts and civil society. Please get in touch if you want to work with us — info@opendatacharter.org.

Open Data Charter Measurement Guide

The Measurement Guide helps governments, civil society, and researchers to understand how to assess open data activities based on the Open Data Charter (the ‘Charter’) principles. It seeks to shed light on the often opaque and jargon-filled world of open data measurement. The Measurement Guide is an analysis of the Charter principles and how they are assessed
based on current open government data measurement tools – with a focus on commitments that can be measured, commitments that cannot be measured, and existing gaps (e.g. commitments that have not been measured).

The Measurement Guide is made for governments, civil society, and researchers to under-
stand how the Charter principles can be measured. It provides an analysis of the indicators, which includes comprehensive tables of global indicators (e.g. indicator tables) per each Charter principle.

  • For governments, the guide summarizes the most important insights in this section, the Executive Summary.
  • For civil society and communicators, the indicator tables and our analysis provide transparency about existing measurement tools (‘Five open data assessment tools’) and what they measure. This can help civil society to oversee the progress of open data policy at a country level.
  • For researchers, the guide explains the methodology to map open data indicators against Charter commitments. The indicator tables created can be used to compare existing data measurement tools and develop new indicators.

The Measurement Guide provides insights from open data experts and members of organizations who work on open data measurement tools. Analysis of the coverage of the five leading open data measurement tools – the Open Data Barometer (ODB), Global Open Data Index (GODI), Open Data Inventory (ODIN), Open Useful Reusable Government Data (OURdata), and the European Open Data Maturity Assessment (EODMA) – reveals that only parts of Charter principle commitments, and their components, are being measured; or that some commitments could be measured in the future. However, some Charter concepts are either too broad (e.g. “high-quality data”, “usability by the widest range of users”), or lack a shared interpretation, which makes them difficult to find a common indicator.

The Measurement Guide also covers how existing indicators metrify key open data concepts.
It is important to note that not all aspects of a commitment are clearly defined. Multiple ways of measuring currently exist for some commitments. Some commitments need to be defined and measured on a country-by-country basis to incorporate local context.

The Measurement Guide is also available in a Gitbook format.

Making Cities Open by Default: Lessons from open data pioneers

City governments play a vital role in building communities where people can live, work, and play, as well as fostering resilient and sustainable development. Cities are responsible for providing basic services that most directly impact the lives of the public. There is a growing movement to give people access to the data and information that they need to hold city leaders to account for the decisions they make and the services they deliver.

For this report, the Charter and OpenNorth investigated the opportunities and challenges faced by cities improving their open data programme, and specifically the role that the Charter can play in supporting this process.

We spoke to government officials, politicians and civil society from four cities (Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg) and one province (Ontario) in Canada, as well as three international cities (Lviv – Ukraine, Buenos Aires – Argentina and Durham – US).