The role of social media in eradicating corruption in Pakistan
From a careful scrutiny of aforementioned facts it transpires that the efforts initiated through the social media may entail some common challenges in Pakistan, including:
- The validity of information: real-time data collected through social media may not always be verified and may prove counterproductive.
- The digital divide: The national distribution of Internet access and literacy remains uneven.
· The social acceptance of corruption: corruption is deeply entrenched in some segments of our society and the efforts to mobilize support against corruption are seldom successful.
· The motivation for the long-term commitment against corruption: It becomes really hard to keep civil society activists motivated in the long run given the socio-economic realities in Pakistan.
- Platforms becoming inactive / obsolete: A lack of resources can harm the most innovative of projects launched in the country.
According to the participants of the UNDP event organized to discuss the use of social media to combat corruption in Belgrade, the main problems associated with the success of these initiatives are linked to the way that their impact is defined and measured and whether sustainability can be guaranteed. In addition, an important element of success is the ability of social media initiatives to promote and monitor the participation of citizens and generate a response from governments (UNDP, 2010).
Why/How social media can fight corruption in Pakistan?
Social media platforms seem tailor-made to fight corruption in Pakistan. Many of their features are ideal for building a sustainable forum against Corruption in Pakistan. Some of these favorable characteristics are:
- Anonymity: A key factor that prevents many people from reporting corruption in Pakistan is the fear of reprisal. Social Media offers people cushioning effect of anonymity to express their anti-corruption views freely. Indeed, it appears that journalists who report on corruption probably run a higher-than–average chance of being attacked. It is however to be noted here that the anonymous nature of the narrative would render the information devoid of validity too.
- b) Accumulation/aggregation: This is a powerful tool available to the protagonists fighting corruption through exploiting the potential of Social Media. They can evolve a mechanism to consolidate what is ‘common knowledge’ about Corruption. Consolidation gives information the credibility that it would otherwise not have and hence makes it hard to ignore. The most common example of aggregation is the Wikipedia, written by a faceless crowd, which is now widely used.
- c) Interactivity: public discourse has always been led by a vociferous few. The silent majority follows in silence. Social media has the potential of lending voice to the silent majority in Pakistan thereby allowing them to participate in a debate rather than just be passive observers. ‘I like’, ‘Dislike’, ‘Share’, ‘Re Tweet’, ‘Favorite’, ‘comment’, ‘Poll Vote “are all tools that can lead to a new interactive and participatory democracy.
- d) The Instantaneity: With the increasing use of social media on mobile, the factor of instantaneity can also be exploited towards combating corruption. Twitter has already stolen a march in that direction in Egypt and there is much that could be accomplished in Pakistan to make use of these tools.
- e) Viral: The viral nature of the medium makes it easier to spread the message across the country
It is however apt here to point out that despite all the positives attributed to the phenomena of social media as briefly discussed above, many of the historical negatives of social media still remain operative in Pakistan. Social media primarily evolved as a virtual hand-out for the young in our society. So there is still a preponderance of entertainment, glamour and humor dominating social media in our country. In such an environment it is often difficult to find an audience for anything serious and substantive. There are serious validity issues attached with anonymity which also has been known to give rise to spam and fraud. Many still believe, and rightly so, that social media frequently seeks to create a “storm in the teacup”. The critics therefore doubt if social media tools ever can lead to a positive sustainable change in real life. However, things are destined to change. Going by the international success stories, there is no reason that it will also succeed in Pakistan. Despite all its imperfections and frailties, it could still emerge as a potent medium of choice for many in their fight against corruption in Pakistan. Social media certainly can play a central role in the fight against corruption in the 21st century.