What is it: OpenCorporates is the largest open database of companies in the world. Founded by Chris Taggart of OpenlyLocal.com and OpenCharities and Rob McKinnon of TheyWorkForYou.co.nz and WhosLobbying.com. Chris Taggart also sits on the UK Government’s Local Public Data Panel, the UK’s Tax Transparency Board, and the Open Knowledge Foundation open government working group.
In it’s four years of existence it has amassed information on more than 84 million companies around the world. It’s goal: to make “information about companies and the corporate world more accessible, more discoverable, and more usable, and thus give citizens, community groups, journalists, other companies, and society as a whole the ability to understand, monitor and regulate them.”
Use for News: Using company registers and wider published data from around the world it gathers and connects public records (including data on dissolved companies) so that company structures can be better understood and the past actions of companies remain accountable. See this recent pitch presentation to the Open Data Institute.
Upside: The ODI say, “By providing a single database of companies that can be searched without fee, and without restriction, it is radically changing the ability of journalists, NGOs, small companies, and even governments to understand and combine their company-related data.”
Downside: OpenCorporates acknowledge that it’s impossible to avoid making some errors in matching companies. “We use a number of algorithms to match companies. If government made more data openly available, or kept a record of the company numbers of the companies they do business with, it would be a lot easier. It would help too if companies were forced to put the company number on their website (in the UK they’re supposed to but as often as not they don’t). Email us and we’ll fix it.”