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Anti-corruption App

Corruption is a huge problem in developing countries. No one wants to invest in a place where all the civil servants, contractors, and vendors are crooks.  And without economic investment, you can't solve most other problems. So I wonder if an app can fix all of that.

I'm assuming that even undeveloped regions have, or someday will have, enough smartphones and Internet access to make this plan work. You don't need full Internet penetration for this idea to work, so long as most people in the local business class have access to someone who has access to the Internet.

The idea is to develop an app for tracking and identifying corruption anywhere in society. It would be sort of like Yelp for corruption. If you get screwed by someone, you record it in your app, it registers on the Internet, and the rest of the world can see. In time, this would drive out the worst offenders and create transparency for the rest. And transparency might be almost as good as getting rid of a corrupt official. For example, if you can't get rid of an official who demands bribes for issuing building permits, it still helps to know how much the bribe will cost and if it will get the result you need. Whenever you remove uncertainty, business is better off.

There are many problems with my plan. At the top of the list is the risk that people will game the system the way small businesses try to game Yelp, by leaving fake reviews. People could use the anti-corruption app to settle scores and to defame competitors. But I think the system still comes out way ahead even if you allow for a healthy dollop of abuse. If there's only one civil servant handling a specific function in a town, and he has a thousand bad reviews but also 100 glowing reviews, people will realize the glowing reviews are fakes.

In time, an observer could get a good sense of which regions are sufficiently corruption-free for investment. That creates more incentive for the corrupt regions to police themselves. Once you have a clear correlation between corruption trends and investment, citizens will tolerate far less corruption in their midst.

Would it work?

[Update: The websites mentioned in the comments as being similar to this idea aren't organized in a way that can make a difference. They are mostly ramdom anecdotes about unnamed people. -- Scott]
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Sep 1, 2011
Someone heard you...or you had insider trading

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 26, 2011
Wow....good take to curb Corruption..... "The Power of Social to Counter Corruption"

with the current Anti-Corruption moment happening in India, this is very relevant,
We can have a Website [Of Course App can log things on this site as well] and log corrupt guys at Town/City/District Level- and publish the Names, also to ridicule them....rate them on this site .....and publish the ratings every month....in every news paper.... :)

and the possibilities are limitless....Use Geo Location to Put the location on the Map with Foursquare/FB/Google Maps etc.

Thanks...I have already shared your post with my friends on every Social network i am on...so may be soon..if not me some one will definitely come up with something....
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
This is an amazing idea. Much better than Jan Lokpal bill which is debated in India at the moment.
Infact Scott, you should look up the Lokpal Bill and Anna Hazare. That draconian law is no match for this genius idea
Aug 24, 2011
The App needs to just say - 'Anywhere in India, Africa, Russia or the UK Houses of Parliament'.
Aug 23, 2011
not an app, but a website in India http://ipaidabribe.com/
because of legal reasons, the names aren't revealed.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2011
Do any of you really trust online reviews if they are not from a known, reputable, knowledgable source? How would anyone get to be an expert on worldwide corruption? The closest I can think of is something like a travel guide...
Aug 23, 2011
I don't think a app will necessary reduce corruption...
Especially if corruption is part of a cultural systems inherent order.

Its almost as if corruption is tradition in many third order country's .That tradition is likely centuries old. Corruption is obviously innate/natural to human society.

When has there not been some form of corruption?

Historically There seems to be more corruption when there is more need.

As a mean whole, when people starve they will do almost anything for survival. So at some point SOME people/society's become corrupt in order to survive. Corruption in a sense may be a survival tool for individuals and society's as a whole.

Even after peoples / society's needs are met that corruption based survival tool may stick with them. They become conditioned to corruption because corruption is rewarded more than punished so they stay corrupt.

It like crack.

corruption may just be a part of a inherent want to survive and maintain survival.

+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2011

<Even chinese salemen feel defeated when they deal with their Indian counterparts.>

My friend, that is saying much!

Another good idea about the internet saving the world, but way too many people have a stake in keeping it corrupt.

Isn't it already an even playing field if everyone already has mostly equal access to self-serving corruption?

The only real problem then is the losers crying foul. Kinda sounds Marxist......

Natural selection at work, beating Chinese Salesmen, if not Chinese Spammers.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2011
If all it takes to get a good score is a bunch of good reviews, I think I'll set up shop selling good reviews (in lots of 1000, delivered over a specified time frame) to any official that doesn't want to be thought of as corrupt.
--dusts his hands off-- Corruption solved!
Aug 23, 2011
Good idea, but it would be much better if constructed as a video sharing website.

With smartphone video recording, the person would be caught in the act, which would eliminate the problem of false negative reviews.

Video would also spread awareness much more quickly. Think about how few people bother to go to Yelp vs. the number who saw that video of the Comcast repairman snoozing on a customer's couch.
Aug 23, 2011
The main flaw in your idea is believing that there is free speech in 3rd world countries. You can't say someone is corrupt here in Brazil, they will sue you and win, no matter what.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2011
The thing about corruption in 3rd world countries is that it's tightly related to violence and a general disrespect for other people's lives. So, the most likely outcome will be that any corrupt official will threat anyone who tries to give him a bad review. And it will happen without problems to him because of the same generalized corruption.

This could be handled by allowing anonymous reports but then, how do you control the fake reviews problem?
Aug 23, 2011
Do you consider the US now a developing nation?

Oh wait, in the USA it is not called corruption but lobbying and donation...

Big Business (incl. Apple) would suppress such an app. Officially Big Companies do not dole out money to anyone, even in countries where they do business where nothing gets done without bribes (e.g. India and China as the big ones where everyone does business)...
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2011

India is currently going through a media event associated with the same issue. Corruption in India is more omnipresent than God. I am an Indian and let me give you an example of how this works in a typical case:

The construction price for a house is typically US$20 per sq feet including all bribes, gifts and other illicit expenses. The contractor for construction quotes prices that includes all the money required including bribes to goevrnment officers.

This is true about all transactions regardless if they are private or government. The private companies do it to save on taxes and the government officers do it because they don't get enough from the taxes. Currentlt the direct and indirect taxes stand at over 85%! So for every 100 dollars earned the government skims off 85 through various executive orders.

An internet app is no good when the illness has afflicted 1200 million people in the same country. India is the largest democracy in the world and simply the most corrupt, if you measure corruption by the number of people who are corrupt. Even chinese salemen feel defeated when they deal with their Indian counterparts.

+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2011
Would it work? I think it may help. It certainly will not solve the problem entirely.

First, there's a lot of corruption by mutual consent that will never get reported since both parties benefit, usually at the expense of a larger context.

Second, the link your create between corruption-free regions and solid investments can totally work the other way as well. I think a lot of businesses invest in developing countries BECAUSE they are more corrupt. Want to mine some scarce mineral resources, clearcut the crap out of a rainforest? With a few pennies you can.

Third, it would be great to acknowledge that 1st world countries are inherintly corrupt as well. Two wrongs dont make a right, but it would be a nice gesture. You know, things like companies buying policy by funding presidents. That is public, pure and simple corruption on a massive scale with a potentially enormous impact, an impact much larger than an Indian cop overcharging your speeding ticket.

Fourth, a lot of corruption may be unreported because it is not perceived as corruption. This could be because you assume that is just the way the system works (ignorance), or because you simply see it as friends helping friends.

Fifth and final. Root cause analysis. Reporting corruption is one, but why does it exist in the 1st place? And why does it exist in some places more? Shouldn't we know this before we try to fix it?

Despite my concerns, the app certainly wouldn't hurt and it is most welcome. Anything that helps is welcome.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2011
In South Africa we have "Hellopeter". It's not for individuals as much as companies, government departments etc. You don't buy ANYTHING in South Africa without first checking their service rating on Hellopeter (pro and con). Companies have learned the hard way that enough bad reviews impacts on sales. This is a small market - that helps.
Aug 23, 2011
I´m assuming the users that write the review would be anonymous, but they would name the corrupt officials, or at least give enough hints to allow others to identify them, without supplying any actual evidence? In this case it would be your website/app that would face the slander charges pressed by the supposedly corrupt officials?
Aug 23, 2011
I am from Brazil, and corruption is indeed a problem here. Just don't think transparency is something that can be easily implemented through an app, a website, or whatever. The biggest problem I see is the judiciary system (very, very corrupt) !$%*!$%* things up. I mean, for how long would you think this app will be up and running when the corrupt, powerful people start getting some heat from it? As long as it takes to say "defamation lawsuit", maybe. And in Brasil this could knock down the app for years and years while the lawsuit tries to find its way through our complex (and corrupt!) judiciary system. Kinda sad.
Aug 23, 2011
Maybe corruption could be traded like carbon credits.

Say there's a corrupt police chief taking bribes from organized crime. Under this plan, that police chief could buy "corruption credits", say from a nun who volunteers at a homeless shelter. He effectively offsets his corruption, and thus becomes "corruption neutral".

So the homeless shelter gets much-needed operating funds and the police chief gets to campaign as a "zero net corruption footprint" candidate. Win win.

Aug 23, 2011
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"Would it work?"

I don't think it'd work in Chicago or DC, much less 3rd world countries.
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