In 2012, the Republic of Moldova was one of the first countries in the region and among the top 16 countries in the world to launch an open data initiative. Last year Moldova moved up from 43rd to the 22nd place in the Global Open Data Index for 2015, released earlier by Open Knowledge foundation. The index is ranking countries based on the availability and accessibility of data on different categories and one of them is the availability of company registry data.
With a major debate taking place on personal data protection vs open data, this year Moldova is among the countries that have 100% satisfied the minimum requirements of this category by opening company names, addresses, fiscal codes, but also data on company administrators, shareholders and lists of activities. As a result, Moldova climbed on the 3rd place near UK and Denmark in the Open Corporate Data Index, developed by the Open Corporates Team with support from The World Bank Institute. This index shows how publicly accessible is the company registration information and highlights the progress being made in countries around the globe.
For many Governments, the rationale behind opening up data on companies is that this data is essential in working towards economic growth, preventing money-laundering, fraud, but also helping small and medium enterprises to grow, perform economic analysis and form partnerships. Last but not the least, it is an indicator of trust for the investors seeking to extend their activity in a particular country. For a small country like Moldova, this is crucial.
Shortly after the data was published, this dataset became the most downloaded on the portal, registering a number of 12000 downloads in the first two weeks after the release. As it contained a large volume of information, it was difficult for simple users to make searches through the files, thus the developer’s community created Bizzer.md. The platform allows users to view company profiles and similar companies in the field. The companies can be also grouped by their field of activity. Using this app, young entrepreneurs for example can see how many companies are in a particular industry in order to find a niche where they can develop their own business, creating new jobs and economic growth.
At the same time, this information is valuable for the journalists that are tracking corruption activities where private companies are involved, or can bring transparency to a particular business sector. For example, the Laetaj.md project, aims to make the construction sector more transparent, in order to help citizens making a better decision when buying an apartment. On the portal, users can find information related to various construction companies and the residential buildings under construction. The portfolio of each company is a mini journalistic investigation based on the use of the open data, including data from company register.
Recently Moldova embarked into Open Contracting, an initiative that aims to open up data about public procurement at all stages of the procurement process. Thus, if the data on companies would be linked with data on procurement, it would become a powerful anti-corruption instrument. This could be the case where using linked data, journalists could track for example who are the shareholders of a company that is constantly awarded, to check if they have any links with the contracting authority that is helping them win the tenders.
Given these examples, it is important to point out that data itself is a tool rather than a solution, a tool that can be used by civil society, private sector and CSOs to fight corruption, create innovative services and boost economic growth. Thus, the challenge for Republic of Moldova is to engage with data users in order to encourage them to consume and take advantage of the available government data.