We spoke to Tim Davies at the Open Data Services Co-operative who led the development of org-id.guide, a new platform for discovering organisation identifiers.
org-id.guide is funded by a collaboration of organisations working on open data standards across a range of sectors including the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), Open Contracting Partnership, 360Giving, Joined Up Data Standards (JUDS) and the Initiative for Open Ag Funding.
What is org-id.guide?
org-id.guide provides the easiest, quickest and most accurate way to find lists that provide organisation identifiers (unique codes and/or numbers that represent a specific organisation in a dataset). Whether it’s a charity in the UK, a company in Malaysia, or a government department in Canada, the ability to describe these different entities in a consistent way is key to opening and linking up data about their activities.
This collaboration of data standard bodies has agreed to provide and maintain a shared register of the lists where organisation identifiers are found at org-id.guide (replacing and updating the IATI Organisation Registration Agency codelist). The project builds on the methodology developed by IATI of presenting identifiers in two parts – a list code, and the identifier drawn from that list.
International Women’s Development Agency organisation identifier
Background: why do we need organisation identifiers?
There may be many organisations in the same country with the same name; an organisation might change its name; or the name may be written in different ways in different places. However, no two organisations should have the same number or identifier in an official list, and their number generally doesn’t change. Using this identifier alongside an organisation name makes sure data clearly references the right organisation, and so links can be made across datasets that refer to the same organisation.
However, it is still possible that two different lists might include the same number – but for different organisations. That’s why org-id.guide provides codes for each identifier list. Combining these with the identifiers gives globally unique and unambiguous ways to reference an organisation.
How does org-id.guide help?
Users can easily search by country, type of organisation and sector through org-id.guide’s directory of official registration agencies and third party lists to help find organisation identifiers.
Based on the search criteria, org-id.guide provides the lists that are most likely to have the organisation identifier you are looking for.
Even better, org-id.guide ranks the results according to the reliability of the identifiers, the availability of public search, and the provision of open data for the lists:
Who is org-id.guide for?
Org-id.guide is particularly helpful to:
- organisations publishing open data for the first time who need to find their own organisation identifier
- publishers naming other organisations in their data to ensure it is more accurate and more machine-searchable
What if there’s no list that can help me?
Just let us know by posting a request as described in our contributors’ handbook and we’ll research potential lists that might contain the identifiers you need.
What difference will org-id.guide make?
We hope that org-id-guide will improve interoperability between datasets. By organisations being described with consistent organisation identifiers in open datasets, this will help data users link up information about organisations’ activities.
There are many advantages to joining up data about organisations. For example, it takes us one step closer to traceability and an ability to follow the money, as there is tremendous demand to trace funding throughout long and complex international development delivery chains from the origin to the point of delivery. It can help link contracting records with information on the beneficial ownership of firms. Or it can support analysis of the extent to which government procurement is encouraging cross-border trade or not, by increasing clarity about where firms are registered and how they are controlled.
What are your future plans?
We want to carry out more proactive research so that org-id.guide includes every company register, charity register, and government identifier list in the world. As a public-good and open project, the list will always be accessible without cost to the user – but we are inviting sponsors to fund the next phase of development. If you’re interested in supporting us do email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be delighted to provide more information.
Please provide feedback
We’d really like to hear about your experience of using org-id.guide and would appreciate any suggestions on improving this tool. Do email your thoughts to email@example.com.