What is the OCDS and why use it?

Objectives

This page will:

  • Introduce the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS)

  • Show the key concepts behind the OCDS

  • Describe the relationship between the OCDS and open contracting

The Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) is a free, non-proprietary open data standard for public contracting, implemented by over 30 governments around the world. It describes how to publish data and documents about contracting processes for goods, works and services.

There are three concepts behind the Open Contracting Data Standard:

  • Open Contracting is about publishing and using open, accessible and timely information on public contracting to engage citizens and businesses to fix problems and deliver results. These results include improving the efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of a public contracting system.

  • Open Data is data that can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose. This requires data to be accessible and machine-readable, and for permission to be granted for reuse.

  • A Data Standard defines the structure and meaning of data in order to resolve ambiguity and help systems and people interpret it.

The OCDS builds on all three of these concepts, and the ultimate goal of the OCDS is to help deliver open contracting using standardized open data. The OCDS describes how to publish data and documents for the procurement of goods, works, and services. It makes contracting data available for anyone to use, modify, and share, for any purpose.

The OCDS can be adapted to meet your needs. Whether purchasing medicines, running a municipal recycling program or building an airport, the OCDS helps you organize and publish all relevant data and documents during the process.

The OCDS is not an electronic procurement system or database. But it can inform how data is collected, stored and published in these systems. The OCDS can help make sure that the contracting data you collect and publish meet global best practices and are fit-for-purpose to meet the needs of a range of different users.

The OCDS helps to increase transparency, enables deeper analysis of contracting data, and facilitates the use of data by a wide range of stakeholders. Academic research shows that improved openness and transparency is good for public integrity, value for money and competition when it is linked to systemic changes that allow people to use the information. More than 50 countries and cities, from Argentina to Zambia, are pursuing open contracting reforms to make public procurement fairer and more efficient.

To facilitate publication of contracting data to meet a variety of needs, the OCDS provides:

  • A common structured data model, including a schema, codelists, and common rules and definitions for data fields and contracting processes;

  • Guidance and tools to support implementation and data use;

  • An extension mechanism to add additional key information to your OCDS data; and

  • A free global helpdesk.

Note

To learn more, go to the next page in the Primer: How does the OCDS work? You can also review the further resources below to go deeper into the subjects introduced on this page.