Cardiff University and The Citizen Lab, University of Toronto
In an age in which power equals “the possession, assimilation and retailing of information as a basic commodity of daily life,”1 transparency has become a luxury and is no longer a given. Cyberspace is populated by an ever-growing number of invisible barriers making knowledge sharing and circulation difficult, such as strict copyright enforcement and content-based discrimination. Digital technologies, however, can contribute to increase transparency and fight corruption.
By undermining public trust and eroding societal infrastructure, corruption contributes to and is broadly indicative of widening power inequalities in many countries. The often insidious nature of corruption makes it difficult to address, and often requires substantial changes to regulation and public oversight. Transparency is an important tool in combating corruption, exposing weaknesses in governance structures and encouraging participation in governance.
False dawn, window dressing or taking integrity to the next level?
The experience of developed and developing countries indicates that electronic reforms in the fight against corruption are the most effective methods in the implementation of the fight against corruption. (Centre for Economic and Social Development Azerbaijan: CESD Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Republic of Azerbaijan, April 2011)
E-government is seen more than ever as at the core of public sector reforms(OECD Government at a Glance 2011)
The theme for this year’s GISWatch – “transparency and accountability with a focus on corruption” – is for some a difficult one. At least two country report authors withdrew from participating in this year’s publication because of the consequences they could face locally from singling out specific acts of corruption in their countries. This is telling. It suggests that to consider ICTs and corruption directly is to put the spotlight more narrowly on what governments or businesses or state authorities are actually doing – and this can, as some authors contend, be risky.
The first time I paid a bribe in Mexico City I was caught by surprise. Admittedly, I had broken the law. In 1989 the Mexico City government passed legislation 1 which required that on every second Saturday of the month all vehicles with licence plates ending in 7 were not allowed to circulate. And here I was, a newcomer to the city, a licence plate ending with 7, and driving in unintended defiance of the law.