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The Open Contracting Innovation Challenge is a competition run by the Open Contracting Partnership and the Open Data Institute to recognise ground-breaking data-driven ideas for improving public procurement. Every third dollar that governments spend goes on public sector contracts – amounting to more than $9.5 trillion every year through contracts with suppliers. Contracting is plagued by opacity and inefficiency and is a government’s number-one corruption risk. Better, smarter and fairer government contracting can have a huge impact on people’s lives.

So the Innovation Challenge honours original ideas for managing, analysing, and monitoring how governments buy goods and services, as well as cutting-edge approaches to publishing what gets bought, when, from whom, and for how much.

The competition looks for entrepreneurs, government innovators, data journalists, civic technologists, open data enthusiasts, and citizens who understand the transformational impact on people’s lives that better public contracting can have in terms of scale and impact.

It is particularly interested in ideas for projects that:

  • Detect and prevent fraud & corruption
  • Create fairer competition
  • Deliver better value for money for governments
  • Drive effective goods & service delivery for citizens

In total, 88 teams from 40 countries and every continent responded to the challenge question: How would you use data to strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of public procurement?

The Finalists

Entries ended on June 2, and six finalists have now been selected for the final Grand Prize of $30,000 in September. Each team received $5,000 now, as well as a three-month incubation programme to further develop their prototype and prepare for the pitch in September. We look forward to following their progress and interviewing the overall winner then.

In the meantime, here is a list of the six finalists and their innovations, which we hope you will find interesting and stimulating. We will shortly bring you a deeper look at each submission.

  • Contratobook by SpaceshipLabs from Mexico aims to detect and flag potential contracts and contractors that may be involved in corruption scandals using machine learning.
  • Telus by the Sinar Project from Malaysia will increase the accountability of public officials by linking open contracting data to corporate ownership registries and other open databases focusing on politically exposed persons.
  • OCDS Search by OCDLab from Ukraine proposes an open-source Open Contracting Data Standard search engine that is embeddable without programming on any website or app to convert data to accessible, readable information.
  • DigitalTwins by the Association of Industrial Automation Enterprises of Ukraine (AIAEU) aims to tackle fraud in public procurement, such as manipulating the description of goods and services by automatically standardising and digitising these descriptions.
  • Joined up data: Linked, usable procurement data by OpenOpps from the UK will unlock new analysis opportunities of procurement data by linking and matching the data of buyers and government entities for its database of over 450 different sources from 76 countries.
  • Benchmarking of contracting authorities by Datlab from the Czech Republic aims to rank public buyers on transparency, competition and procurement results based on OCDS data.

So our congratulations to all of the finalists and do look out for more details on their ideas in the coming days. But before that, we’d also like to mention, and congratulate, the winner of the Government Innovation Award announced at the same time as the finalists.

The Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) in Nigeria has won a Government Innovation Award for a pioneering project with civil society and business to use open data underpinned by legal reform to make information about the country’s notoriously corrupt procurement sector more accessible, transparent and accountable to the public.

The BPP is building its first-ever unified public procurement approach, the Nigerian Open Contracting Portal or NOCOPO, that will publish open data from over 750 government agencies to the Open Contracting Data Standard. It will improve transparency to prevent corruption, enhance active citizen participation and feedback towards achieving better service delivery and increase ease of doing business in Nigeria. As a winner of the Government Innovation Award, the Nigerian team will receive mentoring and expert support to accelerate the progress and execution of their innovation.

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