The OpenOwnership Pilot Program – why do we do it and what’s involved?

Louise Russell-Prywata · Feb 2019

OpenOwnership’s goal is to create an open data and policy ecosystem that ends the abuse of anonymously owned companies. We create tools, provide assistance, and work with governments, companies and civil society to increase access to, and use of, information about the true ‘beneficial’ owners of companies.

Central to our work is the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard (BODS) - a standard format for publishing information about who owns companies, in ways that enable the data to be easily used and linked to other public datasets.

Through the OpenOwnership Pilot Program we are working with governments to apply and test BODS in the real world. We work with them to identify specific challenges and opportunities to use beneficial ownership data in each jurisdiction, and provide bespoke guidance and assistance to bring about long term change.

The governments we work with through the Pilot Program have committed to openly publish the beneficial owners of companies incorporated in their countries. The Pilot Program guides them through a six stage journey to publishing this information as linkable, open data.

The first step is to formally agree the partnership and the role that OpenOwnership will undertake, ensuring clarity over goals and timescales. For example, our agreement with the Kyrgyz Republic specifies that we will assess their laws and technologies relevant to publishing company ownership, and support them to improve these so that they have the necessary legal and digital infrastructure to publish the owners of companies which hold mining licenses.

The second step is to understand the current situation and context in greater depth, both in terms of the technical aspects such as software and database architecture and the policy framework that mandates publication of company ownership information. We use this to identify areas what changes are needed to establish an open beneficial ownership register that uses BODS, writing up our findings into a report.

Then, we support the partner government in making the changes to policy identified in our report. What’s needed will be different in each case. In Ukraine, for example, we are supporting the Ministry of Justice to increase legal penalties for failing to accurately declare company ownership.

The next stage focuses on supporting the partner government to collect data on company ownership according to the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard. This is critical in order for the data to be correctly understood by anyone who uses it, and it enables the data to be easily linked with other datasets. The goal is to get company ownership data in an open format that can be accessed by all, in machine readable format, and used and reused by anyone.

The fifth step is to work with the partner to publish the data and add it to the global OpenOwnership Register. This brings the ability to link the data to life, connecting it with company ownership information covering over 20 countries. As the OpenOwnership Register grows it will become even more useful - the more data it includes, the more connections users can uncover, increasing transparency over ownership chains that cover more than one country..

Finally, we review the overall impact of the pilot, and draw together what has been learned. Learning and feedback is built into each stage of the Pilot Program journey. In response to issues we encountered in each pilot, and the specific solutions we developed with pilot partners, we iteratively improve the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard and the guides and tools that accompany it.

Over time we will draw on our Pilot Program experiences to produce a comprehensive “how-to” toolbox for other governments around the world to publish open data information on who really owns companies, and grow the number of countries publishing standardised, open information.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Pilot Program, a more detailed summary of the process is available to read and download here. Alternatively, you can always:

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