Leveraging Technology to Uproot Corruption
We’ve all heard it – the middle class in sub-Saharan Africa is expanding rapidly, there’s the seemingly unstoppable growth of the mobile phone, greater access to the internet, an increase in access to education, and technology is being leveraged as a key means of economic development. Foreign and local investors, aware of the important role of technology and its significance in fostering progress are getting in on the ground with the aim of delivering innovation that leads to commercially viable products able to positively impact people’s lives.
For a continent with so many passionate and interested parties as well as such technological potential, it is truly a shame that it has been held back by corruption, incompetence and the ensuing legal wrangles, with the people really harmed being the citizens and consumers of this technology. However, it’s not all sad and gloomy as technology is increasingly being harnessed to uproot the many ills that African societies struggle with, predominantly corruption. Here are a few creative examples:
- afriLeaks – run by an alliance of African news organizations, the site allows individuals to securely share documents and information and select any member organization to investigate it. The site is an attempt to enforce transparency and tackle corruption which is rife in several sectors in some African countries. I think of this as the African version of Wikileaks.
- I Paid A Bribe – a Kenyan website that encourages citizens to report cases of bribery. It also allows citizens to share cases where they did not have to pay a bribe. The cases where a bribe was not paid can be used to applaud citizens for doing honest work.
- Not In My Country – a website that allows students to rate the performance of their lecturers and report them for corruption. It’s available in Uganda and Kenya but I’m sure that versions will be released for other African countries soon (at least i hope so and strongly encourage them to do so). As someone who attended College in Nigeria, I can definitely attest to this website being necessary on Nigerian college campuses.
Even if citizens utilize these websites, it’s unclear how many of these cases will actually be fully investigated and the culprits punished. You see, we have a tendency of starting out with good intentions but quickly abandoning such intentions once a “little” gift is offered in the form of cash, land or other assets. Therefore, those who seek to root out bribery may themselves succumb to bribery.
This is not to say that it will always be the case but there are several examples where this has repeatedly occurred. Therefore, I’m curious to see
a) how much traffic and reports are received on these websites – many websites of this kind don’t usually see the kind of usage one would expect -and
b) if any citizens are deterred from committing crimes or punished for their crimes.
Tell me – if you were given funds to help Africa move forward, what ills would you combat via technology?