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Using technology to fight corruption

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anti-corruption suggestion box

anti-corruption suggestion boxNews has reached us that those we have tasked with fighting corruption are in fact themselves corrupt. This coupled with the fact that me and a couple of hundred other people were asked to contribute a dollar each, ostensibly for a ZESA team’s transport, after a transformer blew up in my area can be considered the inspiration for this article.That got me thinking wouldn’t there be reduction in corruption if people paid their ZESA bills online or using their cellphone.

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We live in country were corruption is rife: police taking bribes at roadblocks, ZIMRA officers at tollgates and borders, government officials in public offices etc. There is an age old adage “Who watches the watchmen?” With the emergence of the global village a solution has presented itself: Use technology to expose them to the threat of moral sanction.

With the rise in use of smartphones people should fight back against this injustice by photographing and videotaping the culprits in action and upload their photos/videos to sites like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.com. Captions could be used on photos to name them and shame them. I doubt these corrupt individuals will get to keep their jobs once their dark deeds have been brought to light.

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For reasons best known to themselves, government agencies continue to resist the implementation of technology in their departments. For example ZIMRA could use E-tolling system will eliminate corruption at toll gates and this would result in more money reaching the Consolidated Fund. This also ensures that an audit trail (and lots of useful data) is created thus thwarting corruption on other levels too.

The use of cameras at roadblocks to record police conduct will go a long way in eliminating corruption. Indeed one of the reasons for ubiquitous roadblocks is because police officers make a killing asking for bribes at each site. Cameras should also be placed in public offices like the National Registry, Hospitals, Pension Offices and at toll gates.

So far the largest problem stems from fragmented efforts to fight against corruption. In an effort to provide a centralized platform, a local developer, Tawanda Kembo set up ipaidabribe.org.zw, an attempt at what has been successful in other developing markets, like India and Kenya. Such efforts are to be applauded though the greatest concern remaining is exposure and popularity of the site to the public. I would recommend the creation of a Facebook page that is dedicated to fighting corruption in Zimbabwe. Facebook is already a top site destination in Zimbabwe so it would save people the effort of trying to popularize the site by leveraging existing social communities.

The other problems are indifference from the authorities and fear of retribution. Up to now, the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission is yet to make any impact despite it being a platitude that corruption is everywhere. If corrupt acts and the names of the individuals involved are brought to the frontline instead of being hidden in midnight emails to ‘tip-offs anonymous’ then maybe those tasked with governance will be mortified into action.

There is an Ethiopian proverb: When the webs of the spider join, they can trap a lion. Technology levels the field, let us use it. So what say you?

image credit: africamentor.com


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11 thoughts on “Using technology to fight corruption

    1. it happening in other countries and can be a success if the police are serious about fighting corruption.

    2. It is the apathy of citizens like you that make it less possible. Remember all the good man needs to is do nothing and evil will triumph.

  1. l once saw a police bmw car parked at a very strange place with five officers in it. Some were opening and flapping receipt books whilst others were counting money, whouldnt this be done a a police station?

    The story is that is police where using technology, a police can be lively be tracked with its internal audio and video feeding back to the command and control centre. But hey, who would what such technology which will see there dairly take home dwindle.

    l support you on this one.

  2. There is another proverb: A fish rots from the head down. There is no hope for getting rid of corruption if it is condoned (or even encouraged) from the top. If photographing an officer is not currently a crime, it soon will be. If the Public Order and Security Act doesn’t have a relevant subsection, would-be ‘do-gooders’ can try espionage charges for size.

    Carry on citizen, there is nothing to see here.

  3. As long as its an attempt, its a good thing. Corruption is a very difficult culture to fight once it has allowed its way in. Even worse when poverty is rife…We resiliently reject,report(for those who do) and criticise the behaviour. Long road. Just wondering how effective ipaidabribe has been so far.

    1. Hi @99cc7ce3550f7e6b3e22161a5bcdb561:disqus,

      I guess I am the best person to answer the question about how effective http://www.ipaidabribe.org.zw has been.

      I’m not sure though whether your question refers to what has been done with the bribes collected so far or how effective IPAB has been in curbing corruption so I will attempt to answer both. Lets start with the former. I visited ZIMRA (http://www.twitter.com/Zimra_11) asking if they can make it easy for members of the public report corrupt ZIMRA officers directly to ZIMRA after I recieved a report accusing ZIMRA officials of inflating prices (http://ipaidabribe.org.zw/index.php/reports/view/72). ZIMRA was very helpful and went on to share on facebook and twitter than such officers can be reported to the station manager or by sending an email to pr@zimra.co.zw. This the example of what we intend to use those report for – aproaching government (& public offices), showing them the gaps in their systems & processes, showing them the opportunities those gaps provide for corruption and lobbying for changes.

      And about the later, I don’t believe that http://www.ipaidabribe.org.zw has directly caused a significant curb in the corruption going around in Zimbabwe. Although I strongly believe it will make some difference I doubt that alone we can make a signifcantly large difference. But to understand why we shall continue to push it, you will have to first understand the parable of the elephant and the hummingbird:

      It goes; One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying on its back with its tiny feet up in the air.

      “What are you doing?” asked the elephant.

      The hummingbird replied, “I heard that the sky might fall today, and so I am ready to help hold it up, should it fall.”

      The elephant laughed cruelly. “Do you really think,” he said, “that those tiny feet could help hold up the sky?”

      The hummingbird kept his feet up in the air, intent on his purpose as he replied, “Not alone. But each must do what he can. And this is what I can do.”

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