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OCDS 1.1.4: Setting up for faster improvements

We are happy to share the draft of the 1.1.4 bugfix version of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). In this post, we describe what’s new, what’s next, and how to get involved.

What’s new

1. Faster, easier development

We set things up so that OCDS can be improved more easily and quickly based on the feedback and collaboration we are having with the community.

Until OCDS 1.1.4, the OCDS documentation mixed together normative content (the rules to follow to comply with the standard) and non-normative content (guidance on how to publish and use OCDS data). Since the two types of content were mixed, any change to any content had to follow our governance process, making it longer and harder to improve our guidance.

For the 1.1.4 draft, a first step was for the standard governance working group to agree a Normative and non-normative content and changes policy. This policy defines which content and which changes are normative and require the governance process to ensure relevant stakeholders are involved.

The next steps were to identify all the normative content across the documentation, use RFC 2119 keywords or non-normative synonyms as appropriate, and move normative statements into normative sections of the documentation if needed.

The result: All normative content will be centralized under the Schema Reference section of the documentation. We will thus be able to make changes to the other sections on an ongoing basis, without any risk of changing the rules of the standard.

2. Better extensions documentation

Until OCDS 1.1.4, core extensions were documented as part of the standard’s documentation, whereas community extensions were documented on GitHub or as part of OCDS for Public-Private Partnerships. This made it hard to discover extensions and to browse their schema and codelists.

Alongside the 1.1.4 draft, we are launching the Extension Explorer, a dedicated website that allows you to browse extensions, read the documentation and refer to schema and codelists. Our priorities are to add a search feature and to add more guidance on authoring and using extensions. Please send us your feedback via either the standard-discuss mailing list, the GitHub repository, or the OCDS Helpdesk.

As part of its launch, we added OCDS’ first publisher-authored extensions, by Secretaria de la Función Pública and Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público and Instituto Nacional de Transparencia, Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos Personales in Mexico, and by Oficina Normativa de Contratación y Adquisiciones del Estado in Honduras.

3. Critical fixes for compiled and versioned releases

Until OCDS 1.1.4, all the following were either unclear or contained errors (mostly minor, but some serious) with respect to compiled and versioned releases:

For the 1.1.4 draft, we re-wrote the documentation for clarity and precision; audited and fixed the reference implementation and the code to generate the versioned schema, and updated the sample data. New tests and processes ensure such bugs will not occur again.

If you use the OCDS Merge Python library, please upgrade to the latest version, even if you are not upgrading to OCDS 1.1.4; it contains fixes for all versions of OCDS.

We also offer a suite of test cases so that other implementation of the merge routine can be robustly tested.

4. Many other improvements

We encourage you to review the full list of changes. Two other highlights are publishing codelist CSV files with the documentation instead of only on GitHub, and clarifying the rules for the uniqueness of identifiers for releases, awards, and contracts.

Lastly, we invested in new automated tools to check the quality and correctness of all JSON Schema and codelist CSV files in the standard and extensions, to limit the possibility of bugs in the future.

What’s next

We are committed to ensuring the OCDS remains the best way to disclose contracting data. After four years and a couple of dozen completed implementations of OCDS and many more in progress, we have learned a lot about how public contracting is performed in many countries, and how this information is managed and communicated.

Building on the experience of assisting governments in implementing OCDS, version 1.1.5 will focus on improving the clarity and organization of the documentation and on adding more examples.

Minor version 1.2.0 will focus on integrating our improved understanding of public contracting into OCDS, as well as our closer knowledge of challenging areas and common errors during implementation.

To support that work, we recently advertised for a data standard specialist to work with us. Preparations for both versions 1.1.5 and 1.2.0 have already started, which you can track through the GitHub milestones for 1.1.5 and 1.2.0. Work on 1.2.0 will kick off in earnest around July or August, with 1.1.5 being released by September.

Get involved!

We invite your feedback on the changes before May 24, 2019. Our goal will be to implement 1.1.4 as the live version of OCDS 1.1 shortly afterward.

The draft was prepared with input from OCP (James McKinney, Lindsey Marchessault), the OCDS Helpdesk (Ben Webb, David Raznick, Duncan Dewhurst, Julija Hansen, Matt Marshall, Tim Davies, Tim Williams) and the OCDS community (David Wasylciw, Mihai Postelnicu, Mireille Raad). More than 100 issues and pull requests were discussed and reviewed publicly.

You can preview the OCSD 1.1.4 draft, and submit your comments via either the standard-discuss mailing list or the GitHub pull request.

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