Knowing who we and our governments do business with matters. In most developed countries, government procurement is a fairly hidden process. This lack of oversight isn’t just a problem in terms of access to information – it also excludes small businesses from the procurement process, distorting the market against them..
In order to understand a company – for procurement or other purposes – businesses and organisations often need more information about entities than what is available in company registers. This means enriching this information with data from other sources. Doing so is actually a lot more difficult than you might imagine. For example, is OpenCorporates Ltd the same as OpenCorporates Limited? Doing this across jurisdictions is even more tricky. This process of matching references to companies to canonical records of them is known as ‘reconciliation’, or ‘entity resolution’.
For example, an SEC 10-K filing (an annual report with a comprehensive summary of a company’s financial performance) may include information about the company’s subsidiaries, and perhaps jurisdictions. In order to be useful, users need to be able to match the information in this non-company register data to the 160 million plus companies in OpenCorporates.
Whether you are a stakeholder of a company, a financial services company, a start up, a public sector body, a journalist, NGO, corporate investigator or law enforcement, easily finding references to companies and matching these against the legal entity is crucial.
OpenCorporates already has this functionality via our OpenRefine API – but we want to make this faster, add more functionality, and improving the matching. We’re carrying this out as part of our work with the EU Horizon 2020 project TheyBuyForYou. We will be enhancing our reconciliation service using both some simple improvements, alongside advanced technologies. We’ll be blogging more about this as the project progresses.
Amongst the areas we’ll be looking at will be matching against additional attributes such as addresses, handling abbreviations, punctuation and typos, and creating a new scoring mechanism for matches, and allowing users to configure the strength weighting to different pieces of data e.g. placing more weight on company number. We’re also OpenCorporates committed to increasing the number of EU Member States for which we have company register data.
The end goal is that reconciliation will be transparent, user friendly and matches will be made against open, clean and quality assured OpenCorporates data.