UN and Denmark Show How Tech Can Fight Corruption

Technology can be a powerful tool in the fight against corruption, the United Nations and the government of Denmark said this week at the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Copenhagen.

pexels-photo-270348Photo: PexelsBoth the UN and Danish government released statements providing insight into technological advances that can be used to reduce opportunities for corruption.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) specifically urged the use of such technologies in order to protect emerging economies since corruption often endangers peace and progress.

“Corruption erodes people’s trust in their government institutions, undermines the checks and balances that safeguard our societies and threatens peace,” said Achim Steiner, an UNDP Administrator. “New technologies, carefully managed, could offer a new generation of open and participatory governance.”

UNDP said that because of the gargantuan amount of illegal money flows, emerging economies lost over US$1.1 trillion in 2013. The agency added that $1.5 trillion is paid in bribes per year. In countries relying on international development aid that’s a loss of $10 for every $1 they got from aid.

“Money lost to corruption is essentially development denied to those who are most at risk of being left behind,” Steiner said.

However, there is tech that can work to prevent graft from taking from those most vulnerable. In Sierra Leone, the agency said, there is now digital mapping of Freetown showing real numbers of homes that can be used for better transparency in property tax registrations. Along with Google, the agency has also assisted the Philippines in creating real time monitoring activities for infrastructure projects.

On Tuesday, the Danish government released its own statement and report on technology’s usefulness to combat corruption.

Just one example of the uses tech can have in preventing shady money flows includes the use of blockchain in distributing aid in refugee camps. Another possible use of technology would be pushing for governments to provide open data from institutions to the public that users can explore. Yet another could see crowdsourcing to enable whistleblowing.

“With digital technologies we now have new tools to fight corruption,” said Ulla Tornaes, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation.

She cautioned, however, that there is a risk in tech pushing separation between men and women since often women have less access to certain tech than men.

“This imbalance has to be considered from the start, so we remember to include women, when we bring into play digital solutions – also in anti-corruption initiatives,” Tornaes said.