A group of activists, software developers, journalists and bloggers are gathered inside a room at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) headquarters in Accra for a hackathon. Their goal: to collaborate and generate ideas for a software project that will help in the fight against corruption. The hackathon was jointly organised by Klarity, a Swedish-based tech company and Tiger Eye Foundation, a Ghanaian-based media non-profit, whose founder, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, is renowned globally for using undercover reporting to expose corruption and human rights abuses. MEST – an innovative training and incubator program noted for offering seed funding for tech startups in Africa – played host.
Six months before the hackathon, Klarity launched a mobile application that enables anyone in Ghana to use their mobile phones to safely record corruption activities in their communities. Built in partnership with the Tiger Eye Foundation, it has security features that ensure the safety of citizens who use it. Additionally, they launched JeSuisAnas.org, an online platform that allows users to record and upload videos of everyday corruption. Over 100 videos were pre-loaded featuring Anas’ latest work on exposing corruption in the Ghanaian football league. While Klarity provides the technology and the full spectrum of product development, Tiger Eye Foundation functions as the local partner collaborator based on its track record in fighting corruption in Ghana and across Africa.
“The objective of the project is to provide mobile phone tools and a web platform for concerned citizens to organise and access support from other individuals locally, [and for] media and organisations to hold corrupt institutions accountable,” says Eliza Kücükaslan, CEO of Klarity.
How Digital Tools Help Scale Anti-Corruption Efforts
The question as to whether technology can enable or help in the fight against corruption was explored among key anti-corruption actors during the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) held in Copenhagen last year. A panel examined the promises and challenges of technology in the fight against corruption. Focusing on how digital tools such mobile applications, social media and blockchain technology affect the speed and scale of global anti-corruption efforts, the panel collectively emphasised the need for collaboration between different actors within society to ensure that technology is optimised in fighting corruption.
Speaking at the 18th IACC, Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator said: “New technologies, carefully managed, could offer a new generation of open and participatory governance.” Furthermore, UNDP cited how new technologies provide opportunities that “enable more effective and participatory forms of accountability and transparency”.
In the Philippines, UNDP and Google have created ‘DevelopmentLIVE’, an initiative enable citizens and the government to decrease corruption in SDG-related infrastructure projects, by live-streaming their monitoring activities. In Sierra Leone, through the use of digital mapping of the capital city of Freetown, over 200,000 houses were revealed, while the traditional paper-based property tax register currently records fewer than 2,000 dwellings. These examples are part of an emerging global trend, where the public is engaged directly with other key stakeholders in tackling the scourge of corruption.
Crowd-Sourcing to Enable Whistleblowing and Corruption Complaints
Back at the hackathon in Accra, the group of activists, software developers, journalists and bloggers formed teams to work around storylines based on two typical scenarios of everyday corruption – bribery at the medical clinic hindering people to access health care, and traffic police stopping buses to collect bribes from the drivers.
Based on these scenarios, each team developed a concept for a digital product that can enable citizens to effectively act against corruption. The concepts were judged based on their originality, ease of use and practicality. They ranged from applications that can create heat maps of corruption-prone areas and resources for educating other citizens to take a stance against corruption.
The hackathon is first in the series of similar engagements by Klarity, Tiger Eye Foundation and their partners in Ghana. Lessons learnt will likely inform the integrated product development of the JeSuisAnas.org platform and the mobile application. From Ghana, Klarity hopes to spread the platform all around the world and evolve it into tackling not only everyday corruption but all forms of human rights’ abuse.