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Filed under: Anticorruption Development Development 2.0 Governance

Spurred by events in the Arab world and high profile examples like the Indian Ipaidabribe.com, the role of social media to fight corruption and, more broadly, improve governance has been in the spotlight recently (see e.g. the Accountability 2.0 blog). Perhaps the most comprehensive reports we have come across in this area are from the Transparency and Accountability Initiative. Their global mapping report on technology for transparency and the latest piece on the state of the art in transparency, accountability and citizen participation are particularly informative. Ditto for the online tracking tool on technologies for civic engagement.

A recent post from Aleem Walji on the World Bank’s CommGap site, “From egov to wegov” provides a good summary of the key issues at stake:

As Tim O’Reilly famously said, the days of ‘vending machine government’ where citizens pay their taxes and governments solve their problems are gone. We need a new paradigm. Government is a platform and open government is about enlisting large numbers of people to address public service challenges. To realize this vision, however, governments must do something that makes many people uncomfortable. Relinquish control and allow communities and non-experts to help manage and moderate development processes. That means shifting the contract between state and citizen.

In spite of all this flurry of attention, however, when it comes to our region, we have identified at least two important gaps. They are all the more noteworthy since corruption is, notoriously, an important challenge to governance in the former Soviet block (even if you don’t buy into the Economist’s provocation that “Corruption has replaced communism as the scourge of Eastern Europe”).

  1. In spite of well publicized cases (such as Rospil by Russian anticorruption blogger Navalnyi or the Slovak Fair Play Alliance) and plenty of grassroots initiatives (from the Russian version of Ipaidabribe to the various projects promoted through Social Innovation Camps, most recently in Central Asia and Sarajevo), there is, to our knowledge, no comprehensive overview/inventory of the use of social media for anticorruption that focuses on the region.
  2. Perhaps because it is still an emerging phenomenon, we are still lacking in-depth case studies that scratch under the surface of the novelty factor introduced by technology/social media to analyze issues such as impact, underlying “business models” that are likely to make these initiatives successful, long term sustainability, etc. Take for instance what appear to be the opposite experiences with the national versions of Fixmystreet in Georgia and the Russian region of Perm: in the Georgian case, reports are of 566 problems identified, 344 of which already fixed. In the Russian case, the site seems to have encountered lots of resistance from local authorities. What lessons (if any) can we gather from these contrasting reactions? Or, to take another example,which platforms or models are likely to be more successful in our region – is it Ipaidabribe or Estonia start-up Bribespot? Where do we see more impact in the use of social media for anticorruption: at the national, regional or municipal level? To answer questions like these, it would be great to see more case studies – and data – like the one that MySociety recently released on the take up of their 2 platforms, Theyworkforyou and Writetothem.

In order to start to address these gaps, our regional office is about to embark on a study that aims to provide a country by country overview/inventory of initiatives related to use of social media for anticorruption as well as some more in-depth analysis of selected examples. Here’s a very initial inventory, courtesy of my colleague, Piotr Drozd. Eventually, we hope to move beyond the analysis and, in true web 2.0 fashion, “learn by doing” through actual small scale pilots.

Are you interested in this topic? Do you have any pointers or suggestions that could inform our research and make it more relevant to your needs? Do you know of any case studies we could include our research? We’d love to hear from you.

Giulio Quaggiotto is UNDP’s knowledge management team leader in Europe and CIS.