New report finds serious deficiencies in access to information about companies in countries signatories to the Open Government Partnership. The report by Opencorporates presented at the OGP meeting in Brazil looks at government sources such as business registers in forty countries. Its main findings are listed below:
- OGP countries score badly for open access to company data, with an overall average of 21 (out of a possible 100 points), with several important countries (Spain, Italy, Greece, Brazil) scoring 0 points.
- “Increasing Corporate Accountability” is one of the Open Government Partnership’s 5 Grand Challenges .
- Accountability requires access to information, and in a complex corporate world that means access to it as machine-readable data, with a licence to reuse, remix, combine with other data.
- The information on companies is collected for a statutory purpose, as companies are by deﬁnition artiﬁcial entities that have been created by the state for the wider beneﬁt of society, but is often restricted to only those who have the funds to buy the data, usually companies using it to enhance proprietary datasets, thus doubly undermining access.
The United Kingdom has made a public commitment to regularly publish the most basic information from its company register (i.e. name, company number, company type, registered address, status) as an openly licensed bulk download from July 2012. The report therefore rates the UK twice, once for the current situation, and once for that in July. The UK has also said that it is looking at publishing directors’ information as open data later in the year, but has as yet made no commitment to this, nor to statutory filings, shareholdings or to company accounts (which it is now collecting as data).
As the UK becomes co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, we hope it uses this as an opportunity to lead by example, extending its open data to directors, filings and shareholders, particularly given its important position in the financial and corporate world.
The Report can be downloaded here.