There are a number of advantages to the use of open data as part of anti-corruption investigations, whether carried out by journalists, or by auditors and law enforcement. Open datasets are available across national borders: meaning that citizens, journalists or officials in one country can draw upon data from another easily - and without having to go through various administrative processes to access information. This may assist investigators working in risky contexts, allowing investigations to proceed without political interference, or placing a spotlight on the investigator. It can also support easier investigation of cross-national corruption networks. For example, the coordinators of Sinar Project in Malaysia report using the UK Beneficial Ownership register to investigate the foreign company holdings of politically exposed persons from Malaysia (Source: Personal conversation, OGP Summit 2016).

Case study: Building investigatory tools

In Slovakia, the Fair Play Alliance has created Datanest - a platform that compiles information on government spending from a variety of sources. This information, covering government expenditure, including on subsidies, government contracts, and elections can be queried by investigative journalists, analysts, watchdog organizations, and ordinary citizens to explore potential stories, or search for evidence to back up an investigation. Similar projects exist in Latin America, where the PODER network have built the ‘QuiénEsQuién.Wiki’ platform to combines procurement information and company ownership information to support journalistic investigations.

The Anti-Corruption Open Up Guide

Case study: Uncovering the Illegal Jade Trade

In October 2015, Global Witness, published a story reporting on Myanmar’s multi-billion dollar jade industry. The report focussed attention on the powerful military, government and narcotics actors benefiting from Myanmar’s jade wealth, and the way in which they are using a web of anonymous companies to hide their gains at the expense of the rest of the population. The report was covered in the Wall Street Journal, Guardian, BBC, New York Times, Reuters, Wired, ABC, AP, and AFP. The investigators from Global Witness relied heavily on company data from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), made accessible as open data through This data included key fields, such as company names, directors, and unique identifying numbers for those directors. Although some source data was removed from the DICA register during the period of the Global Witness investigation, it remained accessible in the open data copy, enabling researchers to continue following up leads - combining digital analysis techniques with conventional journalistic interview practices.

The Anti-Corruption Open Up Guide

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