Microsoft ACTS and Open Ownership focus on global data standard to boost beneficial ownership transparency

  • Publication date: 05 December 2022
  • Author: Open Ownership

Countries throughout the world continue to take steps to ensure that their governments function openly and with integrity. Microsoft ACTS, its Advanced Cloud Transparency Services initiative, sees data standards as foundational to its efforts.

When data points are scattered, hidden, or inconsistent, it can be difficult to identify potential risks. To bring siloed data together for analysis, work must be done to structure that data in a way that allows it to be combined. Implementing a data standard across siloed data sets is an effective framework for advanced analytics that uncovers potential problems, risks, or red flags.

Driven by this belief, ACTS is partnering with Open Ownership to help ensure enhanced data governance and security by using its Beneficial Ownership Data Standard (BODS). The goal: to have more countries adopt the standard so the joint efforts can scale globally, and countries gain confidence in each other’s data.

Open Ownership’s global data standard

Open Ownership is a globally focused nonprofit that seeks to empower governments to promote transparency - and meet the challenge of understanding beneficial ownership - through its data standard.

The group, an internationally funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit organisation, is active globally. It partners with governments and organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank and the annual International Anti-Corruption Conference, to promote transparency and visibility into who owns and controls companies. Open Ownership offers tools for governments to support their efforts to accelerate transparency in areas like procurement, taxation, customs, and more.

Data tools available to any country for free

BODS is a comprehensive convention that provides guidelines for collecting, sharing, and acting on ownership. Open Ownership developed BODS in partnership with Open Data Services and it recently became the approved United Kingdom standard for the collection and exchange of beneficial ownership data.

The latest version of BODS enables capturing data on beneficial ownership of state-owned enterprises as well as publicly listed companies, expanding its data standard footprint.

Open Ownership has developed open source tools for producing data using this standard, and has made the tools available to any country for free. The public can also search through millions of beneficial ownership records on the Open Ownership Register which ingests data from national data sets. As more countries enhance their beneficial ownership transparency, millions more beneficial ownership records become available.

“Any government can use this standard to set up the way that they collect data from companies,” says Kathryn Davies, fundraising and communications manager, Open Ownership. “And they can use it so that their national data can be shared, analysed, and used by law enforcement agencies worldwide.”

A second key step: Making data analysable

Providing an open database is just the first step, Davies says. For such a tool to be truly useful, the data must be entered, tagged, and governed in specific ways. For example, one government might enter a date using the international convention of day-month-year, but another might use the American convention of month-day-year. Data sets aren’t usable unless they follow the same norms.

“And that is how we are going to start our partnership with Microsoft: sharing our data standard for this beneficial ownership data,” Davies says. Officials can use these common data standards regardless of the software they use. This expands transparency along the contract and vendor pipeline.

Empowering governments to operate transparently

“The ability to create increased transparency is encouraging and challenging at the same time,” says Norm Hodne, programme director, ACTS. “These solutions have the unique ability to enable processes that are more effective and efficient and provide the opportunity for government departments to increase efforts on proactive detection.”

ACTS and Open Ownership digital transformation and scalable solutions can help countries move away from siloed, labour-intensive paper records. Both organisations hope to grow global transparency awareness and a global data infrastructure, one industry and one country at a time.

Publication type
News article

Beneficial Ownership Data Standard

Impact, Technology

Open Ownership Principles
Structured data