blog 26.09.2023

Open data

Using open data to counter environmental corruption

By Gabriel Sipos, Anti-Corruption Coordinator, TRAFFIC; Isabella Romero, Co-Coordinator, Countering Environmental Corruption Practitioners Forum, Basel Institute on Governance

This blog post outlines key issues and approaches discussed in 2023 meetings of the Countering Environmental Crime Practitioners Forum Open Data Working Group. This Working Group brings together a circle of interested practitioners from the conservation and anti-corruption communities for active collaboration.

In today's digital age, the widespread adoption of information and communication technologies has reshaped the landscape of corruption worldwide, magnifying its impact.

Yet, amidst these challenges, experts recognize technology as a powerful tool in the fight against corruption. The ability to swiftly analyze enormous amounts of data has become a game-changer, uncovering potential corruption in critical datasets such as government licensing, public procurement, asset disclosures, tax records, and financial allocations.

About the Open Data Working Group

Corruption undermines essential conservation outcomes. In order to address the detrimental effects of corruption, a wealth of data from governments, companies, and citizens is being made available that can be leveraged to monitor environmental and other relevant data and detect illicit and corrupt behavior.

Open data analysis provides an efficient and cost-effective method for identifying potential corruption risks and actors. To make the best use of open data opportunities, members of this Working Group are sharing the best available sources of data, tools for gathering, processing, analyzing and visualizing data; and stories of successful use of open data approaches for countering environmental corruption.

Meetings of this Working Group are chaired by TRAFFIC and are open to all professionals in the Countering Environmental Crime Practitioners Forum who are interested in learning about new data mining tools and open data sources to identify red flags of corruption within the conservation space. Sessions are announced one month in advance to all the group members and are held virtually through Zoom.

How can open data be leveraged to counter environmental corruption?

Apart from detecting corruption, open data can improve governance by providing greater transparency, more citizen involvement, and better and more efficient service delivery. This also empowers citizens, leading to more information that therefore improves the decision-making capacity and choice.

Environmental protection relies on effective regulation, and significant investments are flowing into projects to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation. Regulatory and financial decisions and their compliance will need to be carefully monitored to ensure that intentions match the results in practice. Increased funding and new regulation will likely attract illicit actors fighting to misuse the subsidies or avoid the regulation’s intentions.

Open data will prove crucial in the oversight and prevention of such abuse.

Avenues for action

Members of this Working Group have discussed the following opportunities for future cooperation:

  • Exchange case studies and open data tools that help tackle environmental corruption;
  • Share learning about open data in environmental and conservation efforts;
  • Identify new sources of data which could help monitor conservation efforts and detect lack of compliance, or outright corruption; and
  • Find experienced colleagues to mentor and advise on one's data work - or even collaborate directly on projects.

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