The Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the contracting process by defining a common data model.
Globally the majority of contracting data is recorded in a myriad of different formats and syntaxes. This means that monitoring of contracts and procurement is difficult. For example for a variety of reasons it is important to record the currency
in which procurement transactions are conducted. How should one record it? Taking the example of Uganda, should the currency be recorded as Ugandan shilling, UGX, Shilling, or USh?
While this is a simplistic example which may not seem very impactful, procurement systems are incredibly complex with thousands of these types of fields that need to be recorded. Imagine having that level of uncertainty on every single field.
In order to understand, a computer would have to understand millions of different inputs.
What OCDS does is standardise the way in which contracting data is recorded. The Ugandan Shilling has to be recorded as “UGX”. This simplifies the whole process, reducing the amount of different ways data can be recorded and provides
principles which ensure transparency such as the data having to be in a format that can be read by machines (not PDF!).
OCDS enables data to be fed through machines which can then carry out analytics and produce visualisations, diagrams, red flag analysis and trends in corruption vulnerabilities, at a fraction of the time it would take for people to do it.
As OCDS is part of a global movement, this data can be compared globally, enabling better learning loops.
If we see open contracting as the end goal, OCDS is currently one of the most effective tools for achieving it.