Nine ways to use technology to reduce corruption

1 | Remember deterring corruption is the best solution

A few years ago, I advised the people behind the (TRIMS) in Nigeria - a crowdsourced whistle blowing system which allowed truckers and small traders stuck at border check points (some real, some artificial, set up to harass and extort bribes) to report corrupt officials using a mobile phone. There may have been no direct link to officials being punished, but there were stories of a deterrent effect: some truckers mentioned TRIMS and they were let go without being harassed for bribes.

2 | Use technological tools to develop institutional trust

My observations in an east African country recently were that despite decent anti-corruption institutions, an active civil society and a relatively free press, corruption seemed to be ingrained. Leadership in government, media and NGOs seemed cynical. One of my recommendations was to use secure case management systems with audit trails and secure workspaces so investigators can trust these tools and that their work won’t be undermined or leaked.

3| Automate tax collection

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Automation is playing an important contribution to reducing discretionary practices in tax collection. Taxpayers hoping to pay less and tax administrators hoping to earn more can easily lead to bribery and corruption in the tax office. In Afghanistan, we implemented an automated tax administration system that moved taxpayer information from being hidden in a desk drawer to being recorded electronically and only accessed by the people who need it. This helped reduce opportunities for corruption, built public trust in the tax system, and increased revenue collection from $250m to almost $2bn since 2004.

4 | Share information across borders

Corruption doesn’t stop at national borders. Sharing information internationally on aid, public contracts, or company ownership, for example through a public registry of beneficial owners, can be really powerful to compare, identify, and prosecute. Agreeing an open data standard also reduces discussions on which information should be public and this being different in different countries. In Ukraine, implementing the standard has led to 14% in savings.

5 | Digitise public services

Due to the fact that there is a 40% unemployment rate in Kosovo, recruitment is very often prone to bribes. One way we are helping local governments to prevent corrupt practices by public service personnel is to put their entire recruitment process online. We’ve also used social innovation challenges and hackathons to build tools that show budget expenditures in real time.

6 | Take inspiration from other initiatives around the world

From a UK point of view, I think the , and really stand out as organisations who’ve used technology to prevent, detect and deter corruption. OpenCorporates, for example, pulled together a global register of companies, and partnered with Global Witness to do some great research into corruption in the jade trade in Myanmar.

7 | Pay attention to local contexts

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Replicability is a tricky issue. I think mySociety and have done a great job at creating tools that are easily adjustable to local contexts because they are very specific. The risk is sometimes with tools like that provide a great technology, but when implemented locally, people’s motivation for why they would or wouldn’t use the service is overlooked.

8 | Be aware using technology to fight corruption is not risk free

In countries where the state tightly controls the internet and other communication networks, it is possible that some governments could try to block or censor anti-corruption campaigns, particularly as many corrupt acts are often committed by state actors.

9 | And remember technology doesn’t always democratise access

In India, in order to access subsidised fertilisers and seeds farmers have to submit their land registration certificates which they have to obtain from the land registration department, providing ample opportunities for corrupt officers. The government of Karnataka initiated a project called ‘Bhoomi’ where technology was used to load all details about land ownership and copies of these documents could be obtained though an IT booth. However, lack of literacy meant that middlemen were still able to use the vulnerabilities of the service seeker to demand money.

Source : theguardian[dot]com