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 Up Guide: Using Open Data to Combat Corruption

En español

The Open Up Guide provides practical help for governments wanting to use open data to combat corruption.

The Guide includes:

  • A short overview on how open data can be used to combat corruption.
  • Use cases and methodologies. A series of case studies highlighting existing and future approaches to the use of open data in the anti-corruption field.
  • 30 priority datasets and the key attributes needed so that they can talk to each other. To address corruption networks it is particularly important that connections can be established and followed across data sets, national borders and different sectors.
  • Data standards. Standards describe what should be published, and the technical details of how it should be made available. The report includes some of the relevant standards for anti-corruption work, and highlights the areas where there are currently no standards.

The guide has been developed by Transparency International-Mexico, Open Contracting Partnership and the Open Data Charter, with support from OD4D, building on input from government officials, open data experts, civil society and journalists.