Tag Archives: corruption

One Laptop Per Child Criticism

I’d like to discuss the implications of The One Laptop Per Child advertisement we saw in class on Tuesday. We discussed as a class how it was not only uninformative but also infuriatingly transparent. It targets the kind of “activists” that click buttons and make Facebook statuses about humanitarian causes after hearing strategically worded sentences similar to the ones mentioned in the first fifteen seconds of the commercial. It made me think back to an article I read recently which delineates what is commonly known as “the white savior complex,” and how often times, people that might mean well end up doing more harm than good because they have no idea what they’re doing. This One Laptop Per Child campaign could  fit under this category because as we have seen in class, there have been no significant improvement in education after the implementation of the program. Since the laptops are given to the governments to distribute to the children, corrupt leaders may not go through with the distributions at all, and the technology fuels their corrupt activities instead. After taking a class about writing grants last semester, I have an understanding of how difficult it can be to receive funding for a particular project. All the bases need to be covered and every possible pitfall must be considered. This campaign does not seem to have considered all the implications and is feeding only on people’s emotions and consciences. The concept is great, but the implementation needs serious work to be effective and not detrimental. 

Hackathons to End Corruption

images-2 transparency_international1

Transparency International and
Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) have
collaborated to organize Hackathons that are aimed to challenge
anti-corruption and technology experts to work together and create
innovative solutions to corruption challenges. Corruption is an
impatient to the development process, therefore initiatives are needed
to make governments more accountable and less corrupt. This is there
ICT4D comes in. Both Transparency International and Random Hacks of
Kindness believe that technology can serves as a tool in the worldwide
fight against corruption. The hackathon relies on ‘problem statements’
from Transparency International chapters, and members of the public,
while Random Hacks of Kindness mobilizes their base of technological

These are the questions that they try to tackle together:

  • How can mobile technologies help us in monitoring elections across the world?
  • How can we visualise and structure our research data to engage more people?
  • How can we analyse public data through smart engines, or link
  • databases to shed light on the misuse of public funds?
  • How can we make e-solutions to prove the competitiveness of ethical
  • business behaviour?

Participants include hackers, coders, programmers, designers,
do-gooders, politicians, NGOs, political theorists and everyone else
ready to make a practical contribution to stopping corruption. The
Hackathon is live-streamed over the internet to over 8 countries who
have participants working together to find innovative ways to use
technology to fight corruption.

On example of such a Hackaton was headed by Transparencia Colombia who
with RHoK in Bogota, Telefonica, Movistar, Wayra Colombia, Microsoft
and Public,  developed a web and mobile citizen tool to report
electoral advertising for 2014 elections called Participa. They also
were able to developed an online platform for tracking citizen
corruption allegations on their way through Guatemalan public offices,
illustrating that the power technology has in the efforts to fight

Social Media as a Tool to Eliminate Corruption

During last Thursday’s presentation we discussed the potential that online social media can have as an international development tool. Finding alterative uses for social networks that address problems within communities can be of great use to solve problems that are specific to the development world. One such instance is the case of corruption, a problem that’s common in the developing world. Through the use of the social network ipaidabribe  users can anonymously mention instances where they paid a bribe creating a registry of corrupt officials and officers in the country. Although the site was previously mentioned in this blog I would like to expand on the way it works and its potential for the developing world.


Currently, the main site is focused on corruption instances in India with alternate webpages for Greece, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. Additionally, it is currently developing web pages to report corruption in Azerbaijan, South Africa, Ukraine and Tunisia. To address corruption, the webpage is divided into 3 main sites: I paid a bribe, I am a bribe fighter, and I met an honest officer.  Through these sections of the webpage individuals can provide reports of instances where they were forced to pay a bribe, where they asked for one but refused to pay it and where they received help from an especially helpful government-employed person without him asking for a bribe. In these reports the individuals can detail as much as they want the situation pinpoint exactly information that may lead to the identification of those that asked for bribes or refused them.


Through this method awareness is brought to the problem of corruption and by identifying individuals that demand bribes their supervisors or law enforcement agencies can investigate the issue and give the appropriate sanctions. With almost 2,000,000 reports in India alone the system seems to be working and helping reduce corruption in the country.

Social Media for Ending Corruption

After discussing the many positives of social media in development, especially in countries facing a hostile and volatile political environment, it sparked my interest in researching other social media channels.  I came across the website, ipaidabribe.com, and thought it related directly to our class discussions. The  purpose of the site is express of corrupt practices to voice the public opinion when dealing with private governments and/or institutions. Currently, the website is used India, Greece, Pakistan, Kenya, and  Zimbabwe with several other countries in the works. The site also allows for anonymity and essentially provides a record of “snapshot” of  corrupt activity that’s occurring in a country to provide proof to back arguments for improvements in policy and to increase government transparency. This website is a great channel for using social media in the developing world facing harsh political regimes among other corruption. This sort of social media reminds me of the political uprisings we read about that occurred during the Arab Spring, and should be continued to be utilized.




The Broken Promises of ICT Strategies: Azerbaijan

In the field of development, there is a notion that with greater transparency, the decline of corruption soon follows. For developing countries, there is a new surge to commitment to e-strategies that promote ICT devlopment.  e-Government strategies are the most common type of e-strategies and many of these strategies focus on improving the effectiveness and transparency of public administration activities by making use of ICT in government-citizen relations.

Last week, President of Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev declared that the “fight against corruption and bribery should be even more serious“ in his country. He expanded on what role ICT can play in achieving this goal, by saying:

Over the past years Azerbaijan has attained a really great success in the ICT sector. This is in the business sphere and intellectual sector. All the same, this sphere which gives an impulse promotes innovations and transparency. We must widely use these opportunities. The number of e-services must grow, the work in this sphere must continue… Transparency must be ensured to maximum.

In the past decade, Azerbaijan has been going through the motions of ICT development and increased governmental transparency– a trend that is common for developing nations. The National Information and Communication Technologies Strategy for the Development of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2003-2012) lists the “establishment of environment to ensure the right of citizens and social institutions such as to obtain, disseminate and use information, which is an important factor for democratic development” as one of the strategies top goals. The strategy plan forecasts that as a result of the implementation,” transparency will be ensured in state administration and all citizens will get easy access to information. The country will be integrated into the international information society in accordance with the national interests.”

Azerbaijan has put on quite a show, with flashy, progressive ICT strategies to promote government transparency, and declarations to ensure open access to the Internet for all of its citizens.  However, the next step-the policy, the accountability, and the enforcement of such declarations- has not happened. Without actually enforcing systemic change in a corrupt government, shiny ICT strategies accomplish nothing.

What becomes to those who try to expose that the almost 10 year strategy for ICD development in Azerbaijan has done little to stop high level government corruption? Impresionment, fines, and even blackmail. Freedom House classifies Azerbaijan as a “Not Free” nation with the category of the internet deemed only “Partically Free”. Their Azerbaijan report states:

Internet-based reporting and social networking have increased significantly in recent years as a means of sidestepping government censorship and mobilizing protesters. The government has repeatedly blocked some websites featuring opposition views, and intimidated the online community through its harsh treatment of two bloggers who were jailed from 2009 to 2010 after satirizing the leadership. In 2011, the authorities monitored the internet use of protest leaders and proposed changing the criminal code to restrict internet access.

Below is a video of Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani journalist who after starting to investigate corruption at the level of the President,  found her home wired with video and audio recording by state agencies. Khadija was sent an envelope with pictures of her and her boyfriend having sex, warning her to call off her investigation.

ICT sector growth greatly depends on the reception of the public is serves. Distrust due to the political manipulation of ICT services among the public does little to cultivate an environment that will nurture ICT growth and success. Without enforceable policy that is not susceptible to corruption or misuse, the ICT strategies will serve little purpose but to make the country look good. Countries should draft policy that safeguards the users, even from the government to ensure privacy and security.

ICT4D Professional Profile: Ory Okolloh

Ory Okolloh is a Kenyan activist, lawyer, and blogger who is currently employed with Google as the Policy Manager for Africa. In addition, Okolloh has also been known to create a number of websites (engaging in mobile phones, social media, and Google Maps) in order to increase the use of communication and information practices in underdeveloped nations, specifically within the region of Africa where her geographical area of focus is. I chose to write about Ory Okolloh because I feel as though she is an incredible example of applying ICTs to underdeveloped nations by identifying a need and then applying that need to practices of communication and information.

Okolloh’s first ICT4D endeavor was during the year of 2006, where she had co-founded the parliamentary watchdog site Mzalendo, defined as Patriot in Swahili. The website’s mission is to “keep an eye on the Kenyan government” (www.mzalendo.com).  In addition to Mzalendo, Okolloh had also assisted in creating the website Ushahidi, defined as testimony in Swahili. Ushahidi collects and records witness reports of violence by using technological resources such as text messages and Google Maps.

Furthermore, although Okolloh has worked with underdeveloped nations through a number of ICT4D practices, she also has her own individual online blog that is called Kenyan Pundit. Kenyan Pundit was created in result of Okolloh’s  website Ushahidi. Reporting on happenings in Kenya and also referencing other Kenyan blogs of similarity, it acts as an outlet of information and communication for individuals that reside in Kenya and within other nations around the world. However, Okolloh has decided to resign as Ushahidi’s executive director, leaving a good-bye post on Kenyan Pundit. Okolloh states that since the beginning of the creation of Ushahidi “it has been a crazy ride…from producing an incredible open source platform and working towards scale, to building and working with an incredibly talented team, to seeing multiple uses of Ushahidi around the world, to numerous awards and press mentions.” 
For me, what has always been the most important aspect of the work we do has remained simple, building a tool that makes it easy for individuals and groups to tell their stories, and making it easy for these stories to be mapped/visualized. Ushahidi has grown to be that and much more, thanks especially to the wider community, which saw potential uses beyond crisis reporting and who largely shaped our growth and direction to date be it through translation efforts (Ushahidi now available in 10 languages!), or custom themes, or pushing for a hosted version (Crowdmap), or challenging us to address the shortcomings of the platform (through tools like Swift River and our community resource page) (Okolloh, www.kenyanpundit.com). Nevertheless, what Okolloh is most proud of, is the fact that Ushahidi’s platform has extended to underdeveloped nations around the world, each attempting to diminish the digital divide and continue to strive for increased accessibility of communication and information practices.



eLearning and Peace-Building in Rural Africa

When I was working at an NGO last summer, I would often ask my supervisors about their experiences working in the field. They shared many of the joys and hazards of field work with me, and, when speaking of the latter, focused on one in particular: burning out. They told me that they could spend years on a project that, even after being implemented successfully, would be undone by conflict or government corruption. They spoke of projects that had to be halted or failed entirely because of political instability. And they spoke of the helpless feeling that, for all their hard work, what they did was simply a “drop in the ocean”–something helpful that did nothing to change the larger environment in which they worked.

Every day, thousands of development projects take place around the world. But how can these projects come together to promote wider stability and peace? A new project, eLearning for Peace, seeks to answer this question. Organized by representatives from a number of post-Soviet countries in concert with African researchers, the conference has two main goals. First, it seeks to examine the relationship between eLearning and peace-building. To this end, it does not focus on broad-based conflicts, like the Sudan-South Sudan oil dispute or Ethiopia’s border conflicts with Eritrea. Rather, it takes a grass-roots approach to conflict resolution, targeting small-scale rural conflicts, such as disagreements over cattle or land. To this end, it asks how eLearning can empower mediators to help opposing parties reconcile more effectively. Second, it researches the potential of eLearning to aid development in a variety of sectors, such as agriculture, governance, and business practices.

The project will begin with a workshop, taking place in Benin, during eLearning Africa 2012. It does not end there, however–eLearning for Peace intends to serve as an online community and forum in which theories on eLearning can be debated and like-minded researchers can connect with one another to develop projects of their own. What really intrigues me about eLearning for Peace is its attempt to tap into ICT4D’s potential in a sector ICT4D seems to generally ignore: conflict resolution. Indeed, this blog doesn’t even include conflict resolution as a category. I think this is a mistake.  There is no reason to think that, with a little creativity, ICT4D, which has so much potential in so many areas, cannot be used to help resolve the small-scale conflicts that drag down living conditions for millions of rural Africans. By emphasizing conflict resolution, this new project seems to me to be something of a pioneer. While it may not prove effective methodologically, I think it’s innovative focus on conflict resolution is inherently valuable.