In the field of fighting corruption, specialists are unanimous in recognizing the value of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a powerful tool to promote transparency and eradicate corruption globally.
A Swedish study called “Spider” (Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions), carried out by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Styrelsen för internationellt utvecklingssamarbete in Swedish, or “SIDA”), listed the possible practice areas in which ICTs can substantially help the fight against corruption. They are:
There are several examples around the world where technology becomes a great ally in the fight against corruption, as shown in some relevant examples below.
In Brazil, for example, the website Portal da Transparência by the federal government was a laudable initiative by the government. It was created in 2004 by the Ministry of Transparency and Office of the Comptroller General intended as a mechanism to make detailed information on public expenditures accessible to the public through easy access on the internet. It includes, in particular, expenses incurred by bodies and entities of the federal government, the transfer of federal resources to the States, the Federal District and Municipalities, operations for the decentralization of budgetary resources in favor of natural persons or non-governmental organizations of any nature. In addition, the portal includes credit operations carried out by official development financial institutions.
This initiative was awarded by the UNODC for Preventing and Fighting Corruption, granted by the II United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), as a good governance practice. It also received the II National Award for Electronic Debureaucratization by the FIRJAN System/FGV Projects, for its contribution to the creation of online services that facilitate everyday life and reduce bureaucracy for citizens and companies, and the 2009 e-Gov Award, Public e-Services category, as an electronic governmental solution for the government. Based on this initiative, several States and Municipalities went on to create their respective transparency portals.
In the United States, a diverse set of websites have been created to provide access to US federal government spending and expenditure data for federal incentives (recovery.gov), general funds (usaspending.gov) and information technology funds (IT.usaspending.gov). These aim to promote public monitoring of government spending in order to more quickly identify and eliminate uneconomical projects. Several state governments in the United States have also developed similar websites, where any individual can monitor government spending and identify possible overpricing or fraud. In addition, several other US sites allow for tracking transactions and the progress of requests, applications, and/or other government services/resources. One such example is the website of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which allows immigrants to track their immigration applications.
As an example of a successful initiative, we can mention the website www.ipaidabribe.com by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship, India. Through it, citizens can report information about the nature, number, pattern, types, location, frequency, and amounts of bribery they become aware of, resulting in thousands of investigations, convictions and arrests. On the same site, it is also possible to register actions of integrity by public officials. This experiment was so effective that it was copied from India to Greece, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine, and Tunisia.
In the Philippines, during the 2010 elections, the project VoteReportPH, was created, aiming to encourage voters to report fraud and electoral irregularities via SMS, email, Twitter, and the website itself.
Finally, one of the most successful and researched initiatives using technology in the fight against corruption was the Online Procedures Enhancement (OPEN), instituted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, in South Korea. Before its launch in 1999, the levels of corruption in the Government of Seoul were very high, especially with the charging of “fees” to obtain the release of values and services, owed by said Government. OPEN listed 54 government-provided services where corruption was considered most endemic. It also monitored the service delivery time in particular, establishing the regulation of the activities of the respective civil servants. The system's effectiveness became a worldwide success story, completely changing the corrupt environment that was rampant in the city of Seoul.
There are, therefore, countless examples of technology becoming a great ally in the fight against corruption. Indeed, the biggest obstacles for this to occur on a global scale are the political hardships for many developed countries and most developing countries. In addition, technological development is also an obstacle in poorer countries, where computer use is limited to a small portion of the population and the internet and cell phone networks are exclusive to large urban centers.