Invitation for Hackaton – Open Data on Anti-Corruption | The Power of Public Data in Fighting Corruption
The fight against corruption is a collective global endeavour, and the Nordic-Baltic countries are no exception. In the era of information and data-driven solutions, the integration of open data has emerged as a powerful tool in this battle. Open data refers to publicly available information that is freely accessible and can be used, shared, and repurposed by anyone, typically with minimal restrictions. Transparency International Latvia together with Transparency International Estonia and Finland have jointly undertaken the project “Towards the Integration and Expanded Use of Nordic Anti-Corruption Data,” which strives to promote political integrity, prevent corruption, and empower civil society actors in Estonia, Finland, and Latvia through strategic use of open data.
Public data, a treasure trove of information generated or collected by public institutions, holds immense potential in the battle against corruption. Datasets, ranging from government expenditures to beneficial ownership registers, provide a lens into the inner workings of public affairs and relevant private sector influences. Harnessing this data is not only essential but can become a powerful tool for promoting transparency, accountability, and integrity within societies. Public data refers to information that is collected, maintained, or generated by government agencies and institutions and is made available to the general public, often for transparency and accountability purposes.
Why Public Data Matters
Public data matters for several reasons. Firstly, it acts as a check against the misuse of public resources. By making government spending and budget information accessible, it enables citizens to track where their money goes and ensures that it serves the intended purpose. Secondly, public data can expose hidden interests and conflicts of interest through beneficial ownership registers, making it harder for corrupt actors to hide behind legal loopholes. Lastly, open and accessible data is a key driver of government accountability and empowers civil society, journalists, and individuals to scrutinize public officials, thereby reducing opportunities for corruption.
Using Public Data to Fight Corruption
In our commitment to harnessing public data as a tool against corruption, we are pleased to announce the “Nordic-Baltic Anti-Corruption Open Data Hackathon,” taking place online on the 25th and 26th of January 2023. The increasing prominence of public data in combating corruption offers avenues for identifying, exposing, and preventing corrupt practices. The success of this endeavour hinges on the effective and collaborative utilization of such data. To advance our collective goal of fostering a more transparent and accountable society, we extend an invitation to civil society, state institutions, businesses, and individuals concerned about corruption. The hackathon aims to unite diverse minds, fostering collaboration to plan and create integrated digital solutions dedicated to tackling and preventing corruption. Register for the “Nordic-Baltic Anti-Corruption Open Data Hackathon” here.
As a preparation for the hackathon, the three Transparency International chapters have done a comparative analysis “Towards the Integration and Expanded Use of Nordic Anti-Corruption Data” of eleven datasets pertinent to political integrity in Estonia, Finland, and Latvia. These datasets were chosen for their relevance to corruption-related issues and their comparability across the three countries. The findings from this research will serve as the basis for a regional online hackathon.
A Comparative Analysis: Estonia, Finland, and Latvia
We analysed the approaches employed by Estonia, Finland, and Latvia in utilizing open data as a tool in their respective fights against corruption. This allowed us to highlight both the strengths and areas for improvement in open data practices across the three countries.
Estonia has positioned itself as a pioneer in the effective use of open data in combating corruption. At the heart of Estonia’s success lies its advanced digital government services and the Open Data Portal, which serves as a repository for a diverse array of datasets. Legal frameworks in Estonia have been established to support the open data initiative, providing a solid foundation for transparency. However, there is still untapped potential, primarily due to the need for further investment in data infrastructure.
Finland has also taken important steps towards increased transparency, emphasizing the importance of open data in its mission to combat corruption. The country hosts a National Open Data Portal that houses a wealth of invaluable datasets, making information more accessible and transparent. The government’s strategic plan for open data reinforces its commitment to transparency and its intent to provide data for public scrutiny. However, unaddressed challenges still. Ensuring further data accessibility and machine-readability is imperative for maximizing effectiveness in the fight against corruption.
Latvia, though relatively new to the open data and anti-corruption landscape, is making consistent strides in the right direction. The country has laid a solid foundation by establishing a National Open Data Portal and the implementing a legal framework that supports open data initiatives. While progress has been notable, there is still work to be done, particularly in the areas of enforcing accountability for open data compliance and enhancing data accessibility.
Below is a list of examples for topics to be explored during the hackathon. Participants may choose, but are not limited to choosing any combination of the topics listed. Participants are encouraged to create solutions integrating data-sets available in Latvia, Estonia and Finland, for example, to find a link between public procurement and international companies.
- Use of public funds
1.1. Visualisation and analysis of data on public procurement (and its different types), traders most frequently contracted (profile of contracters and participants).
Potential data sources: public procurement, beneficial ownership, company register data.
1.2. Publicly available data on funding allocated under EU Fund programmes. Which national and local authorities have been awarded the largest amounts of funding, who has won the tenders (sectors, contract amounts, local authorities, institutions).
Potential data sources: government budget, company register, lobbying meeting data.
- Integrity in the public sector
2.1. “Corruption index of public authorities” – an index showing the extent to which public authorities and/or local governments have adopted good practices in the fight against corruption.
Potential data sources: beneficial ownership, interest and asset declaration, government spending, lobbying meetings, data and municipality websites.
- Integrity in the private sector
3.1. Largest companies by turnover – performance characteristics and what corruption risks exist?
Potential data sources: public procurement, interest and asset declaration, beneficial ownership, company register, lobbying meeting data.
3.2. NGO and business officials and their donations to political organisations as well as lobbying by these organisations.
Potential data sources: political/election financing, company register, lobbying meeting data.
3.3. Trade or ownership ties to Russian businesses. Identification of sanctioned individuals and their assets.
Potential data sources: land register, beneficial ownership, company register.
3.4. Companies which continue cooperation with Russia or Belarus and are participating in public procurements.
Potential data sources: land register, beneficial ownership, company register.
- Improving data infrastructure and regional interoperability
4.1. What are the biggest challenges in current data interoperability and what are possible technical solutions.
4.2. Are there apparent concerns with personal data protection issues, when analyzing anti-corruption related data sets, what steps can be taken to mitigate these challenges?
4.3. Exploring use of artificial intelligence (AI) to enable innovative automated solutions.
Our research underscores the transformative potential of open data as a formidable tool in the fight against corruption. While Estonia, Finland, and Latvia have charted their unique paths in this endeavour, they all converge at the intersection of transparency and accountability. In an era where digital data reigns supreme, harnessing the power of public data can usher in a new era of transparency, empower individuals and communities, and illuminate the darkest corners of corruption.
Full text of the analysis “Towards the Integration and Expanded Use of Nordic Anti-Corruption Data” is available here. Press release can be found here: Press Release – TI anti-corruption data hackathon English
This publication has been produced with the financial support from the Nordic Council of Ministers. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of the coordinators of this project and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Nordic Council of Ministers.