Sometimes technology can feel pretty impersonal. But when it comes to combatting corruption, removing the personal element can be pretty effective.
“If you take the face-to-face exchange out of the equation, by putting the case status online, for example, [a] clerk’s opportunity to shake me down disappears,” said Alexandra Wrage, who runs TRACE, a nonprofit business association that has worked to combat bribery in 120 countries. “We find ourselves speaking with government officials who ask what the government can do to increase transparency,” said Wrage. “Almost every conversation ends up back at technology.”
Here are three examples of corruption-busting technologies that can make government services transparent and fair. Would one of these benefit your community?
The Philippines launched an “eCourt” system in 2013. The system assigns cases to specific branches immediately after they’re filed and allows the public to track any case’s progress through the judicial process. By having the system assign the cases, this avoids any influence on which judges hear which cases and how quickly they move through the court system. Citizens can follow any case’s progress from a central online interface.
Procurement, the issuing of government contracts to bidders, has long been a source of corruption in countries around the world. Since August 2016, all procurement in Ukraine is online, using a software system that automates bids, balancing bidders against each other for price and speed, as well as instances of unsatisfactory performance. The bids are viewable to the public throughout the selection process.
When companies can participate “on the basis of the quality of their product and the reasonableness of their price, they often win,” said Wrage, “especially if the bids are ultimately made public. On the other hand, if each bidder is sending personal representatives to pitch to the decisionmakers, the deal can go sideways quickly.”
In an essay for Forbes magazine Wrage described an Eastern European city where citizens welcomed the introduction of police cameras at traffic lights. Paying a ticket by mail that includes photographic evidence of the infraction is far preferable to being pulled over and required to “settle” the fine in person with a corrupt officer.