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Help Us Tackle Corruption – Beta Release of the Open Contracting Data Standard

Web Foundation · September 4, 2014

Each year, governments around the world spend over $9 trillion dollars of citizens’ money on public contracts. All too often however, little to no data is made available to the public about how these contracts are entered into, what goods and services are actually being procured, and what service standards are set for delivery. If data is available, it is often supplied in a confusing mish-mash of formats, making clear analysis very challenging or downright impossible. As a result of this opaque process, public contracting has been identified as the government activity most vulnerable to wastefulness, mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption. In order to tackle this corruption and unlock the benefits of open data, efforts are underway to develop a common data standard that will transform the way data surrounding public contracts is released — the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). Today, we’re pleased to announce the Beta Release of the OCDS for broad public consultation.

A new report released yesterday by The ONE Campaign puts a financial and human cost on this corruption. According to ONE, corruption costs the developing world approximately $1 trillion per year, and stamping it out could save over 3 million lives. Releasing data relating to government contracts in a clear, reusable and timely way can play a significant role in reducing corruption — enabling citizens to hold their governments accountable for how they invest their tax revenues, and governments to demand more value and better service delivery from providers. These and other benefits enabled by the release of open data will lead to real, everyday benefits for ordinary people. It is therefore no surprise that one of the ONE report’s key recommendations to fight corruption is to encourage governments to publish “open data in line with accepted open data standards so that citizens can follow the money from resources to results and hold their governments accountable for the delivery of essential services.”

The OCDS, by standardising how governments report on the $9 trillion plus they spend each year on public contracts, provides a solution to this key recommendation. The development of the Standard is an open process and so we invite anyone to contribute to these efforts, and to add their comments to the Beta version.

This release provides:

  • A description of the overall Open Contracting Data Standard Model
  • A JSON Schema for open contracting releases and records that includes a set of recommended fields
  • Details of suggested implementation.

This isn’t the final version of the Standard — rather this Beta version offers early adopters the chance to test the overall data model for the Standard, and to provide feedback on the coverage and definition of fields provided. This feedback will help us refine the Standard before a full launch later this year. We expect to make structural and field changes between the Beta and initial release (Version 1.0) of the Data Standard.

You can share your comments in two ways:

  • Inline comments on the document – Log in to the Open Contracting Data Standard Github site and then highlight portions of text to add comment. To “reply” to an existing comment, highlight the same portion of text, and then add your comment. See instructions at the top of the Github login page for more help on commenting.
  • Mailing list – If you have more general comments that don’t fit well as inline comments, please join the OCDS mailing list and start a discussion with your thoughts.

For specific details on the process of the development of the standard please email

Comments to the document are welcome throughout the Standard process, but we would invite these as soon as possible to help feed the discussion. The document will be continually updated throughout this consultation process.

We look forward to your help on this vital project.

Further information:

The Open Contracting Data Standard, which aims to enhance and promote disclosure and participation in public contracting, is a core product of the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP). Version 1.0 of the Standard is being developed for the OCP by the World Wide Web Foundation, through a project supported by Omidyar Network and the World Bank.

To learn more about the OCDS process and to add your comments, please see the Beta release of the OCDS.

To learn more about the work the open contracting work the Web Foundation is doing, please see the Open Contracting Partnership Data Standard website.

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