Submissions/“Building the World’s Biggest Open Database of Company Information: 60 million companies, 80 jurisdictions, Billions of data points”

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

After careful consideration, the Programme Committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2014 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no. 6043
Title of the submission
“Building the World’s Biggest Open Database of Company Information: 60 million companies, 80 jurisdictions, Billions of data points”
Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)
Author of the submission
Chris Taggart
E-mail address
Country of origin
United Kingdom
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

When OpenCorporates launched three years ago, information about companies was hard-to-find and invariably not just expensive but released under a proprietary licence, restricting access and preventing reuse by journalists, civil society and the open data community.

In just three years and on tiny resources, OpenCorporates has built by far the largest openly licensed database of companies in the world, growing from 3 million companies at launch to over 60 million companies today. It’s also tackled the tricky task of corporate hierarchy, with data that rivals that of the proprietary providers in places, and has worked with governments and pan-governmental organisations such as the World Bank to open up company registers for the benefit for all.

Why is this important? In part it’s because companies are increasingly being used for money laundering, fraud, corruption, sanctions busting and other criminal behaviour, as the World Bank’s Puppet Masters report makes clear. In part it’s because giant trans-national corporations are such an integral part of our lives, and at the heart of many crucial debates of our time, from tax and lobbying, to natural resource extraction and ethical sourcing.

But in part it goes back to the fundamentals of why we have public company information in the first place, back in fact to the beginnings of the systematic creation of companies in the 19th century. In the words of Robert Lowe, Deputy of the Board of Trade and later Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is essential to give “the greatest publicity to the affairs of... companies, that everyone may know on what grounds he is dealing”.

Companies are not people – living, breathing things with unalienable rights – but artificial legal constructs, created by the state and given legal personality, which means even though they don't consist of atoms like you or me and can't be jailed, they have the ability to sign contracts, raise money, have assets and liabilities, and employ people.

Now OpenCorporates is tackling its biggest challenge yet: finding, cleaning and importing regulatory data about companies from around the world, de-siloing data and connecting it to the companies to which it relates, giving a 360-degree view of companies around the world, and making this information visible, machine readable and useful for the first time.

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
I was named one of the top digital social innovators to watch for by Jon Kingsbury and Peter Baeck on The Guardian:
Special requests

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