Civil society demands transparency
Six technologies have been identified as the most widely used in the field of social media. These tools are often used in combination with others to produce the desired output in the struggle against corruption. They are particularly useful in mobilizing like-minded people.
|SOCIAL MEDIA TOOL TYPE||DESCRIPTION|
|Crowdsourcing||The act of outsourcing the gathering of information to the public via Internet and/or mobile technology in order to produce collaborative content, to which anyone can contribute. A variant, crowdmapping, geographically places crowdsourced data on a map.|
|Social Networking||Allows users to connect and engage with friends and contacts through the sharing and discussion of interests, ideas, events, activities and media.|
|Online Communities||A type of social network maintained via practice of membership rituals by participants with shared interests, often taking the form of chat-rooms or forums.|
|Blogging||The maintenance of an online space by individuals with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video – allowing for the exchange of ideas between bloggers and visitors.|
|Mobile Technology||Communication enabled via mobile phones through voice call, short message service (SMS), multimedia messaging service (MMS) and, increasingly, access to the Internet.|
|Internet Censorship Circumvention||The use of various web technologies to bypass barriers imposed to block free access to online content.|
Source: London School of Economics and Political Science, Transparency International. Use of Social Media Tools for the Fight against Corruption (2011).
Access to information
The ability of the citizens to obtain information lying in the possession of the state can be defined as access to information. The “right to know” is linked inextricably to accountability which is considered a central tenet of good governance. Informed judgment is difficult, if not impossible, when official activities and government decision-making processes are not open to public scrutiny.
The first step in mobilizing the people against corruption is to inform them with the objective that informed citizens are concerned citizens. The absence of a free flow of information promotes corrupt practices; hence the importance of free access to information cannot be over emphasized. There are two types of online initiatives employed by the civil society seeking to achieve this purpose: Internet tools to circumvent censorship and alternative media.
Quoting former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson: “everyone knows that corruption thrives
in secret places and avoids public places and we believe, it is a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety” (Stapenhurst, 2000). Based on this premise we can safely conclude that freely accessible information pertaining to government activities is necessary in order to ensure accountability of government officials.
A Wiki leaks is an international initiative by a global network of activists aimed at promoting a more transparent government. The website functions as a secure inbox for whistleblowers around the world who want to disclose classified information to the public. The presentations are largely encryption to protect the anonymity of sources. We are well aware of the fact that Wikileaks made headlines in 2010 when it published secret information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and military operations were subsequently criticized by the American public.
Corruption is also challenged by supporting the cause of access to a free press on the Internet. Various websites publish uncensored journalistic content. While an abundance of alternative news sites exist, those that operate out of countries where the media is tightly restricted are often the most innovative. Successful examples include The Online Citizen in Singapore and In Media in Hong Kong (Bekry, et al. 2011).
Checks on Government
Governments seeking to promote integrity tend to ensure that public institutions are transparent in their operations, and public officials are accountable to their constituents. One way of achieving this objective is to streamline the publication of government information in the form of official documents, statistics, reports and other content of public interest. In Pakistan similar efforts undertaken by the governments have not borne fruit. The Punjab government’s drive to computerize revenue records, on one hand, has been facing stiff resistance at the hands of the vested interests and on the other, revealing the lack of commitment and the determination on part of the decision makers. Similarly, an effort undertaken in the name of Police Record and Office Management Information System (PROMIS), aimed at automating records at all police stations and offices was approved by the Federal Government in April 2005 with the total cost of 1.4 billion rupees. National Police Bureau (NPB) was given the task of its execution. The same is still far from completion.
If we examine global trends in this regard we have many success stories to learn from. Ros Gos Zatraty is a Russian initiative that maintains an online database of government spending, including detailed analyses and data regarding government contractors. Other initiatives entail promoting political transparency and accountability by monitoring the activities and performance of elected officials. Congreso Visible is a comprehensive online platform for the Colombians to learn about their politicians (Bekri, et al. 2011).