Blog

Using it, not losing it, over procurement data

27 Nov 2017

By Katherine Wikrent

There is strong emerging evidence that making the planning, procurement, and implementation of public contracts open by default is a powerful way to craft better deals with taxpayers money, deter fraud and corruption, build trust with citizens by providing reliable and quality services, and to promote a better, fairer business environment.

A key tool in this approach is the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) which provides a user-friendly open data schema to unlock and share all the data and documents from public contracting from planning to tenders and awards, through the contracts themselves and their milestones and implementation.

Generating meaningful, targeted data that gives agency to end users is critical to ensure real-world impact from that openness.

The number one request that we receive from partners and allies has been to better articulate how contracting data (unlocked and shared using OCDS) links to the outcomes they want to have, and how to measure their progress toward those outcomes.

To develop this guidance, we interviewed the leads of five diverse open contracting projects from across the globe to understand what factors are critical for their work. We are now sharing our findings in a research report, which takes some first steps toward better defining the path between data and outcomes. This work is part of our broader goal of moving partners beyond transparency for transparency’s sake toward delivering real, tangible value from open contracting data.

Through the interviews, we saw to what degree open contracting goes beyond just data; contextual factors, like the relationships between stakeholders and the policy environments in which data is released, are key influences on the sustainability and impact of open contracting efforts. The four recurring themes we found throughout the interviews relate to these contextual concerns: publishing quality data over large quantities of data; releasing data and information in as timely a way as possible; linking data across the procurement chain and across information systems; and fostering feedback loops between end users and publishers.

To satisfy the request from partners to better articulate how contracting data links to specific use cases, user needs, and indicators, we have started a project to link OCDS to an initial set of public procurement indicators, in “Using it, not losing it, over procurement data.” We intend to expand on this work in future research with our community. Please let us know how you get on with this new resource: What do you think of the indicators we linked to OCDS so far? How can we make this resource most useful to you? What has been your experience using indicators in your own work?

We are eager to receive your input, and we look forward to sharing more as we continue to expand our guidance on how to make the best use of open contracting data.