How to use the Internet to end corrupt deals between companies and governments

Stella Dawson at the Thomson Reuters Foundation: “Every year governments worldwide spend more than $9.5 trillion on public goods and services, but finding out who won those contracts, why and whether they deliver as promised is largely invisible.
Enter the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).
Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay became the first countries to announce on Tuesday that they have adopted the new global standards for publishing contracts online as part of a project to shine a light on how public money is spent and to combat massive corruption in public procurement.
“The mission is to end secret deals between companies and governments,” said Gavin Hayman, the incoming executive director for Open Contracting Partnership.
The concept is simple. Under Open Contracting, the government publishes online the projects it is putting out for bid and the terms; companies submit bids online; the winning contract is published including the reasons why; and then citizens can monitor performance according to the terms of the contract.
The Open Contracting initiative, developed by the World Wide Web Foundation with the support of the World Bank and Omidyar Network, has been several years in the making and is part of a broader global movement to increase the accountability of governments by using Internet technologies to make them more transparent.
A pioneer in data transparency was the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global coalition of governments, companies and civil society that works on improving accountability by publishing the revenues received in 35 member countries for their natural resources.
Publish What You Fund is a similar initiative for the aid industry. It delivered a common open standards in 2011 for donor countries to publish how much money they gave in development aid and details of what projects that money funded and where.
There’s also the Open Government Partnership, an international forum of 65 countries, each of which adopts an action plan laying out how it will improve the quality of government through collaboration with civil society, frequently using new technologies.
All of these initiatives have helped crack open the door of government.
What’s important about Open Contracting is the sheer scale of impact it could have. Public procurement accounts for about 15 percent of global GDP and according to Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation which seeks to expand free access to the web worldwide and backed the OCDS project, corruption adds an estimated $2.3 trillion to the cost of those contracts every year.
A study by the Center for Global Development, a Washington-based think tank, looked at four countries already publishing their contracts online — the United Kingdom, Georgia, Colombia and Slovakia. It found open contracting increased visibility and encouraged more companies to submit bids, the quality and price competitiveness improved and citizen monitoring meant better service delivery….”