You’re sitting at a gate in an international airport (as I am now) and, just as a parlour game, you’re looking for the transparency constituency among your fellow passengers in oil-producing country X. There are two people from that country sitting straight opposite you on the seats, grimacing through the barely intelligible announcements of delayed [...]
Here at OpenOil we have developed a series of country-level natural resource reference guides. We develop well-sourced articles of between 100 and 1,000 words in English and local languages summarising contracts, assets, issues, policies and the geopolitics. Then we export to print book, ebook and smart phone apps.
The guides create a richer infosphere in producing countries, and target decision makers and opinion formers there.
How are the guides used? As context and background. Suppose there is a new contract. The guide summarises existing contracts between the government and that and other companies, background to the resources in the contract, explanations of technical terms and a global profile of that company which includes not just market numbers but its complete social, geopolitical and environmental “footprint”.
Who can access the guides? Anyone. All material is under the Creative Commons license and will always be free on OpenOil websites.
What languages are the guides in? So far English, French, Arabic and Spanish. We aim to produce in as many languages as possible.
How are they produced? We work with small teams and use an adapted version of the Mediawiki collaborative publishing platform.
How do you update the guides? We seek to establish franchises with institutions in the producing countries, handing over ownership of the wiki platform for their country and establishing a two-way flow of information and revenues. Our aim is to ensure that each guide is updated annually in all languages.
How can I get one? If you would like a print or ebook copy of any guide, write to lucy.wallwork[at]openoil.net.
Who funds the guides? Funders have so far included the United Nations, and media organisations in Germany, the UK and the United States. The guides are developed using a mixed business model: non-profit funds are used to develop prototypes and create basic level open access in local languages under Creative Commons license, while commercial terms attach to premium products such as a subscription across ebook, print book and mobile phone app distributions. OpenOil also produces customised guides to order. But OpenOil is a social business and editorial integrity is non-negotiable.
Which countries are there guides for? So far Iraq, Libya, Iran, Egypt , Ghana, Colombia, Niger, Sudan and South Sudan… and counting.
Which countries will there be guides for? OpenOil plans to create guides for every country where extractive industries exist, some 70 around the world. A dozen more countries are now in early stage development.
Is this information sensitive? Is it dangerous? The guides are curations of the public record where all factual assertions are fully sourced. They carry no policy positions themselves, nor do they involve any investigative reporting work, since they follow the Wikipedia principle of “no original research”. In this way, we hope to minimise sensitivities in countries where extractive industries are still deemed to be part of national security. OpenOil has a lot of experience working in closed environments across the Middle East and elsewhere.
How I can build a guide in my country? Write to us! OpenOil is looking for partner organisations – research centres, news agencies, private sector consultancies and NGOs – to partner on new guides.
Check out the guides using the links at the side! And if you want to request editing permissions to edit or add to any of our guides, in any language, simply fill out this form and let us know.
Read about the wiki project in other languages…