Bangkok (Thailand), 8 February 2018 - Open data has been recognized as the raw material of the 21st Century: it provides important information to businesses spurring innovation and economic growth; it helps improves policy- making, government efficiency and public service delivery; and it is also emerging as an important instrument to prevent and fight corruption in the public and private sector. Applying open data on beneficial ownership of companies and asset declarations of public officials, for example, can be instrumental to manage conflicts of interests and to investigate corruption allegations effectively. Similarly, having information on tender announcements and award can be an effective tool to prevent and identify corruption in public procurement.
Several initiatives use and provide open and free databases for anti-corruption measures. For example, OpenCorporates, a free database of corporate data, contains the records of over of 97 million companies from around the world. MySociety's initiative EveryPolitician contains the records of over 60,000 politicians from 233 countries, data which has been crowdsourced from numerous digital open data sources. OpenOil now has a service which provides free access over one million company filings related to the oil, gas and mining industries. Combined, these datasets can be effective tools to prevent, identify and eventually investigate cases of conflicts of interest or corruption.
Also in Thailand, open datasets have become increasingly more available, following trends elsewhere in the world. The Electronic Government Agency (EGA), under the supervision of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology manages the Government's central data portal, which includes 893 datasets related to economic development, transportation, industry and society, and government spending. Yet, the application of open data is still limited, especially regarding anti-corruption efforts.
To address these limitations and bringing forward the open data agenda for anti- corruption efforts in Thailand, key stakeholders from civil society, private sector and government agencies, including the EGA, discussed the challenges in accessing and using open data for anti- corruption measures in Thailand. They particularly highlighted the need for the enforcement of sanctions when agencies do not submit their data even though required by law, improvement of inter-agency coordination, using standardised data, databases and systems, training staff in data management and analysis, and legislative reform to have fewer restrictions on accessing information. Participants also developed a set of solutions, including innovative ones, such as e-watchdogs or hackathons, to address the challenges, and identified the stakeholders to be involved in the next steps. Participants reminded themselves of the need for civil society and private sector to come together to push forward the open data agenda in Thailand, and promised to further work on this issue in collaboration with key government agencies.
"The existence of an open data portal is a very good starting point, but a lot needs to be done to make open data a reality in all its aspects. We hope that this event reinvigorates cooperation among stakeholders: national authorities, NGOs, but also businesses, which a have an important stake in the promotion of open data. The on-going review of Thailand on the implementation of Chapter 2 on Prevention of the UN Convention against Corruption provides a good opportunity to review the current laws, regulations and implementation practices of open data and access to information in Thailand", explained Mr. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The event was co-organized by Thailand Collaboration for Change, the SiamLab of the Chulalongkorn University, the Khonthai Foundation, the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand, and UNODC; and supported by the Thailand Development Research Institute and the Office of the National Anti- Corruption Commission of Thailand, with funding from the Swedish Government.