Friday, November 16, 2012

Presentation by Chris Taggart Co-Founder of Open Corporates on: Holding Companies & their Directors to Account - An Open Data Solution

Imagine a situation where you could search company director’s names and find out which companies they sit on across the world. Well imagine no more. In today’s globally interconnected world where companies have more financial muscle than some governments it is ideal to know these things.
I was therefore happy to sit and listen to Chris Taggart of make his presentation at 88 mph on his initiative to build an open access database with basic information on every corporate entity in the world which can then be remixed and combined with other data, such as government contracts.
What was happening before Open Corporates?
Journalist and researchers had to do manual investigation to track even the most basic facts about a company, such as whether it exists, and who owns it. 
What I took home from this Presentation
Taggard’s presentation opened my eyes on how interconnected companies are in this day and age and how they are using this to their advantage. Some of the things companies are doing are;
·         Registering in multiple countries therefore becoming more complex resulting to their operations becoming even more opaque.  This enables tax avoidance.
·         Colluding with weak governments. This is because ministers of government usually make deals with global businessmen. Open Corporates can help check on some of this incidences.
The other take away of the evening was how to use powerful data-driven tools and open access databases to mine company information from across the world. Though some of this tools one is able to get basic company information and with background data or other sources of information, such as government contracts or regulatory filings, one can gather new insights.
Opportunities that exist on Open Corporates Portal
Some of the opportunities that arose from this presentation are;
·         How Kenyan Hacks can use this portal to check on elected or government officials and interests they may have on companies
·         In an election year. Hacks can check on interests different politicians have across the world and use this for meaningful engagement.
·         Africa is currently having a massive Chinese confluence. Most of these Chinese Companies usually register companies in these countries. If made open, this data can help us understand the Chinese companies and shed light to money flow between Asia and Africa.
Bottom line is that Open Corporates can help check on corruption and make our societies more transparent.
Kenya though a signatory of Open Data is yet to release the company registry data. I learnt that monies to this effect we’re allocated by World Bank. What remains is how soon this information will be made public. 

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