The world is also now increasingly a corporate one, dominated by highly interconnected, global companies that have exploded in complexity and power and have the ability to have a significant impact on the lives of citizens all around the world. In tandem with this growth, often times citizens’ ability to understand companies and the impact of these companies on their lives has decreased.
In addition, as the World Bank’s “Puppet Masters” report illustrates, the complexity and inaccessibility of information relating to corporate entities is a key enabler of corruption, organized crime and money laundering.
Yet, there is a growing global movement in support of improved corporate governance that will accelerate and scale up the deployment of solutions in relation to the private sector in delivering inclusive and sustainable growth. For instance, multiple governmental bodies, including the Open Government Partnership, now consider increasing Corporate Accountability as an important goal.
Accountability is an essential part of improving corporate governance and of increasing the ability of citizens to understand the impact of companies on their lives. But accountability is not possible without data. Recent years have also seen the growth of the open data movement and of the realization that there are significant benefits that come from making data open and accessible. In a data-driven, highly interconnected world it is access to data, and the ability to combine it with other data, that gives real insight and power.
For this data to be useful, it must be accessible in machine-readable form and under an open license that allows reuse. There has been recent progress in this area, as both the UK and Norway have recently started publishing open corporate data. Unfortunately, too few countries currently make their company registers available as open data, and there are relatively few mechanisms to encourage this.
While the state provides companies with their legal standing, and while the state collects information about those companies, in many countries, it is not even possible to confirm the existence of a company without payment of a fee. Furthermore, data about companies acting in multiple jurisdictions is even more challenging to obtain and at times may only present a partial or highly limited view of the company.
The limited access and availability of data about companies and their work is not just a problem for governments or tax officers, it is a problem for all; it is an opportunity for the emergence of issues such as money-laundering, fraud, international corruption and organized crime. These issues hinder development and economic growth on a global scale.
As such, opening up company data is crucial in addressing these issues and in working towards economic growth and development. As part of the growing global movement towards increased openness and participation, important progress has already been made in this area. This index seeks to highlight that progress and serve as catalyst for further progress to be achieved.